Flop of the Month: Novak Djokovic serves up COVID-19 infections in error-strewn display

Tennis ace caught partying and observing few social distancing rules shocked fans and led to a spate of coronavirus infections. The incident may have caused irrevocable damage to Djokovic's reputation.

Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov playing basketball at the Adria tournament. Both contracted COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images.
Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov playing basketball at the Adria tournament. Both contracted COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images.

In a month when Marcus Rashford showed the power of positive campaigning by a global sports star, the world’s best tennis player showed exactly the opposite.

Novak Djokovic tops the rankings on the male tennis tour (ATP). This week he would have been appearing at Wimbledon as defending champion. He’s the president of the ATP player council and was widely considered to end up as one of the three GOAT (greatest of all time) tennis players, alongside Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. 

All of which makes it more astounding that he would do something as stupid as getting himself infected with Covid-19, along with several other leading tennis players and coaches, and his wife – via his own tennis tournament called the Adria Tour last month.

Despite most tennis being suspended from mid-March, including the cancellation of this year’s Wimbledon, Djokovic was keen to front up and play in the Adria Tour which took place in Serbia and Croatia, countries that have so far escaped the worst outbreaks of coronavirus.

But commentators around the world were shocked to observe there were few social distancing measures at the matches in either country, while players were observed happily playing basketball with each other (see photo above) and mixing with fans, including children between sessions.

Even worse, mobile phone footage emerged of the players, including Djokovic, partying at nightclubs in their downtime. The footage showed players with their shirts off, some grabbing microphones to sing to the crowd (see below).

To compound the scandal, once the outbreak was reported, some players who had been in contact with identified cases – again including Djokovic – did not immediately self-isolate but subsequently travelled internationally. 

When Djokovic revealed that he too had caught C-19 he apologised, saying: “I am so deeply sorry our tournament has caused harm. Everything we did in the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions. We believed the tournament met all health protocols and the health of our region seemed in good condition to finally unite people for philanthropic reasons. We were wrong and it was too soon. I can’t express how sorry I am for this and every case of infection.”

Nevertheless one suspects Djokovic’s reputation will never recover from this episode. One only hopes that everyone infected as a result of this cavalier, ego-driven episode will make a full recovery from this terrible virus.

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