Novak Djokovic Tests Positive For Covid-19: Here’s How It All Unfolded
Much like the rest of the world, athletes are not immune to Covid-19. As the virus spread around the world at alarming speed, health officials were quick to emphasise their concern that, unlike first perceptions of the virus, even those of peak physical fitness and health could suffer severe symptoms that could prove debilitating. As a result, the Olympics were postponed, sporting seasons were thrown into turmoil due to the halt of competition, and most had to contend with keeping up their fitness in lockdown, as some countries even forbid people to leave the house. But as sporting competitions look to resume as restrictions over Covid-19 ease, a new case has plagued the tennis world as world No 1, Novak Djokovic, tested positive for coronavirus.
Djokovic has become the fourth leading player to be infected by the disease, along with two trainers. His wife, Jelena, also tested positive for Covid-19. According to reports, Djokovic became infected towards the end of his unsanctioned Adria Tour, which ultimately had to be aborted mere moments before the final in Croatia.
News of Djokovic’s positive testing comes at an inopportune time. The sport recently announced plans to resume after a four-month lockdown, outlining a new schedule for the US Open which will commence August 25. Now, with the world number one and other players infected, the sport has been thrown into turmoil and will need to re-evaluate how to move forward.
As for Djokovic, the Serb is facing significant backlash and criticism for his actions which many see as being a major contributor to not only seeing him become infected, but also jeopardising the health of others and seeing them become infected, too. Here’s an outline of the events that led to Djokovic’s positive testing.
The Unsanctioned Adria Tournament
In an effort to raise money for charity and unify audiences during these difficult times, Djokovic organised the Adria Tour to be played in four legs across the Balkans – in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He hosted a number of players, many of whom were some of the best in the world. And yet criticism came to Djokovic immediately, with many questioning why such a tournament would go ahead given the circumstances. Djokovic reassured everyone that the organisers were adhering to government guidelines around safety.
He said, “Of course lives have been lost and that’s horrible to see, in the region and worldwide, but life goes on, and we as athletes are looking forward to competing.”
Video footage has since emerged on social media of players taking part in the event and it has been made clear that no social-distancing regulations were enforced for the exhibition matches. Players can be seen dancing with shirts off, high fiving, hugging and doing the limbo. Their close proximity, coupled with touch, would have easily spread Covid-19.
Djokovic Tests Postiive
The Guardian reports that Djokovic declined to be tested on site. With his family, the Serb flew to his home city, Belgrade, where he sought medical advice and was tested. He received the results and issued a statement detailing that he tested positive. He will now go into quarantine for 14 days, and said this was “the new reality” even though he had organised his tour “with a philanthropic idea”.
Shortly after Djokovic tested positive, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki also returned positive tests following the tournament.
Djokovic Faces Backlash
As those within the tennis world could only watch with dismay as a number of players returned positive tests due to the unsanctioned event, they have directed their criticism towards Djokovic. Nick Kyrgios took to Twitter to say it was a “boneheaded” decision to hold the event.
Kyrgios wrote: “Prayers up to all the players that have contracted Covid-19. Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done in the past that has been ‘irresponsible’ or classified as ‘stupidity’ – this takes the cake.”
Former world No 1 Andy Murray has also commented on the exhibition, saying: “Obviously it’s not surprising how many players have tested positive when you see the scenes and the images and the videos from the tournament and the players party with no social distancing in place.”
He added, “I’ve seen some people say this puts the US Open in doubt but the measures and the protocols they have in place are completely different to what was going on in Serbia and Croatia. For a start, there will be no fans and the players will now know we can all be affected by this, it doesn’t matter who you are, we need to respect the rules.”
Djokovic issues an apology
Djokovic expressed regret and sympathy, issuing a prepared statement following his testing. He said: “The Tour was designed to help both established and up-and-coming tennis players from south-eastern Europe to gain access to some competitive tennis while the various tours are on hold due to the Covid-19 situation. It was all 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 to this.
“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.
“I am extremely sorry for each individual case of infection. I hope that it will not complicate anyone’s health situation and that every[one] will be fine. I will remain in self-isolationfor the next 14 days, and repeat the test in five days.”
It’s unclear what consequences Djokovic’s tournament will have on the future of tennis and how quickly the sport resumes competition. But it’s clear that inside the world of tennis, there has been significant fallout from such actions.