World No.1 men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic has announced he and his wife have tested positive to coronavirus after he played in a series of exhibition matches he organised with zero social distancing amid the pandemic.
Raising questions about the full-fledged return of tennis, including the US Open, planned for August, Djokovic — who stands third in the history of men’s tennis with 17 Grand Slam titles — is the fourth player to test positive for the illness after participating in the matches held in Belgrade and Zadar, Croatia.
The others were three-time Grand Slam semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki.
“Unfortunately, this virus is still present, and it is a new reality that we are still learning to cope and live with. I am hoping things will ease with time so we can all resume lives the way they were,” Djokovic said in a statement.
“I am extremely sorry for each individual case of infection. I hope that it will not complicate anyone’s health situation and that everyone will be fine.”
Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios joined criticisms of Djokovic, tweeting overnight that “this takes the cake” compared to his own controversies as a player.
“Prayers up to all the players that have contracted COVID-19. Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been ‘irresponsible’ or classified as ‘stupidity’ — this takes the cake,” Kyrgios said along with footage that appeared to show players at a party.
Djokovic has been in the news frequently in connection to the COVID-19 outbreak, which led to the suspension of the ATP and WTA professional tennis tours in March. Plans were announced last week for the sport’s sanctioned events to return in August.
In April, he was criticised for saying he would not want to take a vaccine for the virus in order to be able to compete, even if it were mandatory for travel.
In May, when he was staying in Spain, Djokovic broke local lockdown rules by practicing at a tennis club about a week before it was allowed.
More recently, Djokovic complained about the US Tennis Association’s plans to try to protect people from the virus during the US Open with such measures as limiting the size of players’ entourages, going so far as to say he didn’t know whether he would go to the tournament in New York.
The US Open is scheduled to begin August 31 without spectators, and the French Open — postponed from May — is supposed to start September 27.
Djokovic found himself defending the lax arrangements of his Adria Tour exhibitions, which were meant to raise money to help those affected by the pandemic but where the stands were packed and players casually interacted with fans and each other off the court.
Djokovic and other players were seen hugging each other and partying in night clubs and restaurants.