Novak Djokovic in Belgrade, Serbia, on June 12 2020. Picture: AFP/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC
Novak Djokovic in Belgrade, Serbia, on June 12 2020. Picture: AFP/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC

Belgrade — Novak Djokovic has accused critics of subjecting him to a “witch-hunt” after his regional Adria Tour tennis event ended in a coronavirus fiasco and says he is still uncertain whether he would play at the August 31-September 13 US Open.

Images and videos of the players hugging at the net, playing basketball together and partying at the Adria tournament were posted on social media.

World No 1 Djokovic, fellow Serb Viktor Troicki, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Croatian Borna Ćorić all tested positive for the virus.

Djokovic, who tested positive for Covid-19 after the Adria Tour’s second leg in Croatia, pulled no punches in responding to his peers and pundits who said he was irresponsible to stage the event amid the pandemic.

“I can only see criticism lately and much of it is malicious,” he told Serbia’s daily Sportski žurnal. “It’s obviously more than just criticism, it’s like an agenda and a witch-hunt are on. Someone has to take the fall, a big name.

“I still haven’t decided whether I will play in the US Open. The upsurge in registered Covid-19 cases in the US, and New York in particular, are not playing into the event’s hands,” said Djokovic, who was back in training with Troicki on Tuesday.

Djokovic tested negative after a second test last week and, having conceded after the failed tournament that it came too soon, he reiterated that he had acted in good faith.

“My intention was pure, I was wholeheartedly committed to organising a humanitarian event to help players and tennis federations in the [Balkan] region,” he said. “We complied with all the laws and regulations. But we’ve learnt our lessons and some things could have probably been done in a different way.”

The first leg in Belgrade, held on June 13 and 14 with no social-distancing rules in place, drew a sell-out 4,000 crowd, and many fans turned up at the Zadar Visnjik tennis complex with a capacity of 9,000 a week later.

Fans in Zadar were ordered by the Croatian government to stay 2m apart but the final, due to feature Djokovic and Russian Andrey Rublev, was called off after Dimitrov tested positive for the virus. The remaining two legs in Montenegro and Bosnia were scrapped.

Reuters

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