During his isolation period it has been quite quiet from Novak Djokovic who returned to the tennis court on Tuesday for the first time since his positive test for Covid-19.
Djokovic was back on court at his own academy which hosted the first leg of the now cancelled Adria Tour with Viktor Troicki who also tested positive a few weeks back.
The world number one has been talking to Sports Journal about the reaction to what happened and his plans and has said:
“Lately, I only see criticism, very malicious. Obviously, there is something more than that criticism, as if there is an agenda, as if it were a witch hunt. Someone has to fall, some person, some big name to be the main culprit for everything … I’m not sure I’ll play at the US Open. I plan to play Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros in September.“
Criticism for what happened is fair, I do agree some of what I have read has been malicious and sadly it is expected. I love watching Djokovic play but there are tennis fans who will look to continuously slam him for anything he does. Out of the “Big 3” he has always been betrayed as the least liked player and it gives ammunition to without sounding like a cliche “haters”.
In the last week or so the Serbian Prime Minister has tried to take some heat off the world number one and said to PinkTV:
“Every part of him. He tried to do something good for the whole region,”
“To put politics aside and help young and non-established tennis players, as well as to raise money for humanitarian purposes.
“If they could shift the blame on me personally, as prime minister, and leave Novak alone, I would love it,”
“It’s our fault, we eased the safety measures. If we had not, there would’ve been no tournament,”
To be fair, I think that is pretty incredible from the Serbia Prime Minister. She has taken the blame and knows restrictions were lifted too easily and that in itself takes something when for example our (UK) government have been quick to throw people under the bus.
I do think we are still missing the point slightly though.
Just because restrictions were lifted it doesn’t mean you should jump into normality and then put opportunities out for people.
It still for me comes down to common sense, just because you’ve been told you can do something it doesn’t mean you have to. Restrictions around the world are getting lifted but this is still a global pandemic, even those countries who have kept an extremely tight lid on it aren’t out of the woods and some who loosened restrictions are now tightening them again…
That’s the point, the bigger picture. None of us have been in a global pandemic before but because you can do something and offer an experience for a crowd it doesn’t mean you should. Yes, restrictions shouldn’t have been lifted but more stringent measures should have been in place.
It is careless what happened and you could call it negligent. We are all human and we make mistakes but as a pioneer in the sport and one of the biggest names in world sport it needs better care and attention. Djokovic called measures at the US Open “extreme” but it is like that to throw caution to the wind and to be able to hold an event with care, attention and importantly right now without a crowd.
That was the problem alongside no social distancing from the players but the fact there were 4000 fans not social distancing or wearing masks and an event was organised without rules set.
At no point during this do I “hate” Djokovic, I like the guy but he is the best tennis player in the world and organising an event with next to no rules when he would have such a strong team of people around him like agents and directors made no sense.
What also doesn’t help is the behaviour of other players. I don’t think Dominic Thiem who hoped between events testing negative has helped the situation much. Thiem recently called out of Kyrgios to “come clean” for his past behaviour but this is nothing to do with tennis but to do with the responsibility of global players in a global pandemic.
Sascha Zverev has also rightly been criticised for his behaviour, Sascha apologised for any harm he had caused and said he would complete a full isolation period and was then spotted on social media partying with many people 6 days later and has been absolutely silence since.
On the other hand I’m full of praise for Andrey Rublev who has regularly updated fans on social media with his negative testing and isolating instead of going missing and hiding. Same as well with Marin Cilic who completed a full isolation away from his wife and kid, that is the example and responsibility of sport stars in the public eye.