MIKE DICKSON: Novak Djokovic made a mockery of coronavirus with Adria Tour… the world No 1’s positive test has trashed his brand, battered his reputation and put his position as ATP Player Council president in real doubt
- Novak Djokovic announced on Tuesday that he tested positive for coronavirus
- The world No 1 organised the Adria Tour event despite the ongoing pandemic
- He said he was ‘deeply sorry’ for the harm done but he has trashed his reputation
- Djokovic’s position as president of the ATP Player Council is now under threat
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Novak Djokovic had a dream to take his Adria Tour around the Balkans during the current hiatus — and ended up turning it into a tennis version of March’s Cheltenham Festival.
How many people will have ended up infected with Covid-19 as a result of it going ahead amid scenes of players and crowds packing close together? We may never know, but there will be a toll, even in a region that has endured less hardship and loss than many in recent months.
Finally Djokovic came up against one opponent he could not beat: scientific and medical reality. He thought he could defy them in the way he has been seeing off every other adversary for years, which is why he and wife Jelena are now in self-isolation after testing positive for Covid.
Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour has tarnished his reputation after he tested positive for Covid-19
Djokovic and fellow tennis stars partied in a Belgrade nightclub on Sunday night, with some of the players taking their shirts off during the riotous evening
Djokovic (left centre) was joined by the likes of Alex Zverev and Dominic Thiem throughout the evening following the completion of the Adria Tour event
The 33 year-old Serb’s headstrong sense of self-belief has served him magnificently in his journey to becoming one of the world’s greatest ever players.
In other areas much less so. Following his diagnosis (and the abrupt abandonment of his Adria project) his reputation is more battered than the Centre Court’s baseline after a fortnight’s play.
Djokovic and the five other direct participants who are among those now isolating — including his fitness trainer — have time to repent at leisure.
Whether or not it will lead the world No 1 to reconsider his deep mistrust of conventional medical wisdom is another matter.
Djokovic was also pictured grappling with Grigor Dimitrov during a game of basketball while they were competing in his event – both players have now tested positive for Covid-19
There was little sign of contrition in Tuesday’s initial statement about the conduct of the Adria Tour, during which it appeared he was encouraging others to ignore social distancing.
The picture of him and the likes of Grigor Dimitrov cavorting half-naked in a Belgrade nightclub, or grappling on a basketball court, will be among the emblems of this very strange sporting year.
Djokovic’s left-field beliefs on health matters have been known for years, but have been brought into focus during this whole unsettling period.
This is someone who admitted weeping when they realised natural healing could not cure a longstanding elbow problem.
When lockdown came, his restless mind went into overdrive. First his wife posted 5G conspiracy theories on social media, then came his anti-vaccine stance and cringeworthy online love-ins with health ‘guru’ and entrepreneur Chervin Jafarieh. Among the theories they swapped was a belief that positive thought could cleanse toxic water.
Djokovic pictured alongside his wife Jelena, who has also tested positive for coronavirus – she has previously had a ‘false information’ badge attached to one of her Instagram posts after sharing a clip that suggested the spread of coronavirus is linked to 5G technology
Big crowds have attended the Adria Tour amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
Djokovic believes in mind over matter, which, coupled with an extraordinary athletic ability, is why he is vying with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to win the most men’s Grand Slam events in history. You wonder how all this will affect that incredible race.
If Djokovic has a vulnerability it is that he cares, a lot, about the way he is less popular than his great rivals. His tanking in the second set in last year’s Wimbledon final was an example, a reaction to the crowd being so overwhelmingly in favour of Federer.
His loss of standing among fans and perceived disservice to the global fight against coronavirus may not help him in future battles (although his bloody-minded determination saw him through last year’s Wimbledon decider against an ageing opponent).
More parochially, his esteem within the game has been flattened. If tennis operated like a normal business he would now be forced to resign as president of the ATP Player Council.
This might yet happen, because many in the parish are furious at the way he has undermined attempts to try to get the international show back on the road.
Dimitrov (left), Djokovic and Co showed no consideration for social distancing when they were celebrating scoring goals between their tennis matches on the Adria Tour
There was no adherence to social distancing on the court, either, as players hugged at the net
Rarely does truth publicly speak to power in a leaderless, star-dominated sport like tennis, so the intervention of respected Brazilian doubles specialist Bruno Soares has been notable.
Jamie Murray’s former doubles partner, and Djokovic’s fellow council member, Soares told Globo Esporte that the recent antics showed: ‘Enormous irresponsibility and huge immaturity. They were totally careless. It’s difficult for me to find the words. I sum it up as a horror show.’
All those taking part, especially in the Belgrade nightclub shenanigans, have trashed their own brand, none more than Djokovic.
In time the Adria Tour would be a suitable subject for one of the documentaries that have proved so popular of late. Let us hope there are no tragic endings.
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