Opinion: Reckless Novak Djokovic paying the ultimate price for his vanity project

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic press conference

A sceptical jury was already considering their verdict on Novak Djokovic’s controversial Adria Tour and now their judgement will be damning, with the world No 1 caught in the eye of a storm he decided to create.

As what became the almost inevitable confirmation that the reigning Wimbledon champion had contracted Covid-19 during the first two legs of his ill-judged travelling tennis tour, sympathy for Djokovic’s plight will be in short supply.

The superstar who planted himself front and centre of the publicity machine behind Adria Tour revelled in the adulation that flowed in his direction as he played in front of his home fans in Serbia earlier this month, with Djokovic’s pulling power ensuring some of the world’s top players join him to play and event in the Balkans that attracted television broadcasting deals and major sponsorship agreements.

The mission to raise money for charities may have been heartfelt, but the sight vast crowds packing the stands at a time when world sport is trying to return behind-closed-doors raised eyebrows aplenty and that was only the start of the arrogant disregard for the health and safety of those taking part.

Novak Djokovic Adria Tour crowds

Images of Djokovic draped around his fellow competitors as they partied in nightclubs after the first event in Serbia left a lasting impression that the tournament’s curator felt coronavirus was a pandemic he was immune to catching, with that viewed backed up by his own comments several weeks ago.

Novak’s claim that he would not accept vaccination against the virus couple with an infamous Instagram post from his wife Jelena – who has also tested positive for Covid-19 – promoting the ludicrous conspiracy theory that the virus was spawned from China’s 5G phone towers left the impression that the Djokovic clan were refusing to join the world in accepting the severity of the pandemic and now they have taken their PR disaster to dangerous levels.

“It was born with a philanthropic idea, to direct all raised funds towards people in need and it warmed my heart to see how everybody strongly responded,” claimed Djokovic as he tried to defend the Adria Tour in his statement confirming his positive test. “We organized the tournament when the virus has weakened, believing the conditions for hosting the Tour had been met.”

It was a lame apology statement, but the truth is no excuse can justify the scandal Djokovic has overseen here.

His position as President of the ATP’s Players Council appears untenable after an event that has caused lasting damage to the sport he claims to have been promoting, with his message of apology as he confirmed his positive test counting as this was a calamity that should never have come to pass. 

Doubts over whether the US Open can go ahead as scheduled in late August are now certain to be aired, with Djokovic’s shocking disregard for the danger he was placing all involved in the Adria Tour impossible to overlook at a time when this virus continues to rip through the world with violent abandon.

While we wish Djokovic and his wife well in their respective recoveries, but Novak’s decision to treat Covid-19 with contempt has come back to haunt him and the tennis family should not forget the stain his reckless actions have left on the sport. 

Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer

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