World’s number one in men’s tennis, Novak Djokovic, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus after taking part in a tennis exhibition series he organised in Serbia and Croatia.
The top-ranked Serb is the fourth player to test positive for the virus after first playing in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, and then again last weekend in Zadar, Croatia. His wife also tested positive.
“The moment we arrived in Belgrade we went to be tested. My result is positive, just as Jelena’s, while the results of our children are negative,” Djokovic said in a statement on Tuesday.
Djokovic has been criticised for organising the Adria Tour and bringing in players from other countries during the coronavirus pandemic.
Those who tested positive for COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, after the tour include: Serbian tennis player Viktor Troicki and his pregnant wife, Djokovic’s coach Marko Paniki, Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov and his coach Christian Grob, as well as Croatian tennis player Borna Coric.
There were no social distancing measures observed at the matches in either country.
Some of the Croatian newspaper headlines read on Tuesday: “We forgot Italy and jeopardised thousands of people because someone wanted to hit the ball”, “The entire Croatian tennis association must resign, now”, and “This may shake Djokovic’s credibility”.
Djokovic, who has previously said he was against taking a vaccine for the virus even if it became mandatory to travel, left Croatia after the final was cancelled and was tested in Belgrade.
Despite the positive test, Djokovic defended the exhibition series.
“Everything we did in the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions,” Djokovic said. “Our tournament meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region.”
“It was all borne with a philanthropic idea, to direct all raised funds towards people in need and it warmed my heart to see how everybody strongly responded to this,” Djokovic said.
“We organised the tournament at the moment when the virus has weakened, believing that the conditions for hosting the Tour had been met.”
“Unfortunately, this virus is still present, and it is a new reality that we are still learning to cope and live with.”
Djokovic, who showed no symptoms, said he would remain in self-isolation for 14 days and also apologised to anyone who became infected as a result of the series.