Players slam Djokovic tournament after 2 players test positive for COVID-19
Australian Nick Kyrgios calls holding event a 'boneheaded decision'
Croatia's Borna Coric became the second player from Novak Djokovic's Adria Tour exhibition tournament to test positive for COVID-19, raising serious concerns for tennis governing bodies in their bid to restart the sport after a lengthy shutdown.
The professional circuit was halted in early March as nations closed borders and imposed lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.
Last week the men's ATP and the WTA, which runs women's events, issued revised calendars for the resumption of the circuit from August while organizers of the U.S. Open said the Grand Slam will be staged without fans as scheduled from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 in New York.
Those plans, however, could need to be redrawn with Coric's positive test following that of Grigor Dimitrov, who said on Sunday he had contracted the novel coronavirus, highlighting the risks of athletes from different countries mixing without adhering to social distancing norms.
The ATP and the WTA did not respond to request for comments. Organizers of the Adria Tour could not reached for comment.
Bulgarian Dimitrov flew in to play in Djokovic's event in Belgrade and the second leg in the Croatian coastal resort of Zadar as did other top names like Dominic Thiem of Austria and Germany's Alexander Zverev.
Organizers of other sports looking to resume from the coronavirus shutdown will be watching developments with some trepidation as they try to find the safest way of getting competition back under way.
Coric, ranked No.33 in the world, revealed on Twitter that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
"I want to make sure anyone who has been in contact with me during the last few days get tested," the 23-year-old said. "I am really sorry for any harm I might have caused. I'm feeling well and don't have any symptoms."
No social distancing
With both Serbia and Croatia easing lockdown measures weeks before the event, players were not obliged to observe social distancing rules in either country.
"It is recommended that anyone who has been in close contact for more than 10 minutes with the tennis player be advised to self-isolate for 14 days and to contact their doctor," the event organizers said in a statement on Monday.
The tournament witnessed packed stands during the opening leg in Belgrade, players hugging at the net, posing for pictures together and attending press conferences together.
Djokovic organized nights out in Belgrade for the players and himself and pictures and videos of him dancing with the other participants at his event were posted on social media.
Briton Dan Evans said Monday that Djokovic should put his hand up and accept responsibility.
"I don't think he should be having a players' party and dancing all over each other," Evans told reporters ahead of Jamie Murray's behind-closed-doors 'Battle of the Brits' tournament that begins on Tuesday.
Djokovic to speak to media Tuesday
"Two very good tennis players have tested positive. He should feel some responsibility in his event and how it's transpired, really.
"It's very unfortunate that Grigor has it and Coric has it but you strip it back, is it a surprise? I think that's the question we should all ask."
Djokovic is expected to address the media Tuesday after learning of his coronavirus test results.
With international tennis suspended, Djokovic organized the Adria Tour as a charity event to be contested over four legs across the former Yugoslavia.
"He [Djokovic] will conduct all the tests, " the player's media team in Belgrade said in a statement on Monday. "Then, we'll wait for the results. He is fine, he has no symptoms but nonetheless, he needs to do the test and then we will see what's going on."
Djokovic has not said if he would play at the U.S. Open from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13, citing strict anti-virus measures at the Grand Slam event.
Russian Andrey Rublev, another player at the Adria Tour, said he tested negative for the virus.
"Boneheaded decision to go ahead with the 'exhibition' speedy recovery fellas, but that's what happens when you disregard all protocols. This IS NOT A JOKE," Australian player Nick Kyrgios said in a scathing social media post.
American tennis great Chris Evert also criticized the organizers for the lack of social-distancing, saying .".. total physical contact, no face masks, even the fans were without masks.. I don't get it."
Austrian Thiem, the current men's No. 3, is currently playing in France in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), which is co-owned by Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
Organizers of the UTS, which also features men's top-10 players like Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and Italian Matteo Berrettini, posted pictures on Friday of Thiem undergoing test after arriving at the Mouratoglou academy in Nice.
With files from the Associated Press