World number one Novak Djokovic tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday (June 23) after taking part in a tennis exhibition series he organized in Serbia and Croatia.
The top-ranked Serb is the fourth player to test positive for the virus after first playing in 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 Jelenas, while the results of our children are negative,” Djokovic said in a statement.
Djokovic has been criticized for organizing the tournament and bringing in players from other countries amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Viktor Troicki said Tuesday that he and his pregnant wife have both been diagnosed with the virus, while Grigor Dimitrov, a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist from Bulgaria, said Sunday he tested positive.
Borna Coric played Dimitrov on Saturday in Zadar and said Monday he has also tested positive. There were no social distancing measures observed at the matches in either country.
“Everything we did in the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions. Our tournament meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic, who has previously said he was against taking a vaccine for the virus even if it became mandatory to travel, was the face behind the Adria Tour, a series of exhibition events that started in the Serbian capital and then moved to Zadar. He left Croatia after the final was canceled and was tested in Belgrade.
“Despite the positive test, he defended the exhibition series. 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,” Djokovic said.
“We organized 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 said he will remain in self-isolation for 14 days and also apologized to anyone who became infected as a result of the series.
Exhibition events have been staged in various places around the world while the ATP and WTA tours have been suspended since March because of the pandemic. The tours announced last week they plan to return in August.
Djokovic’s charity tennis exhibition series, combined with an overall softening of coronavirus restrictions in Serbia and Croatia, has been followed by an increase in the number of positive cases among professional athletes.
Grigor Dimitrov, a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist from Bulgaria, said Sunday he tested positive for the virus.
Borna Coric played Dimitrov on Saturday in Zadar and said Monday he has also tested positive for the virus.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was among the spectators at the beach resort and will also be tested.
“I am really sorry for any harm I might have caused,” said Coric, who urged anyone who had contact with him to be tested. That could be a lot of people.
Coric, Djokovic and other players, including Marin Cilic, played basketball with a local team last week and posed together for photos.
Djokovic was supposed to play in the series final on Sunday, but that event was canceled.
Djokovic and Dimitrov also played in the Adria Tours opening exhibition a week earlier in Belgrade.
Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev, who both played in the Serbian capital, said they would self-isolate despite negative tests.
“I deeply apologize to anyone that I have potentially put at risk by playing this tour,” Zverev wrote on Twitter.
Djokovic’s decision to fly home to Serbia before being tested has also attracted scrutiny.
Most other players at the Adria Tour stayed in Croatia for testing after Dimitrov’s positive test was announced and Sundays final between Djokovic and Andrey Rublev was called off.
The 2020 tennis season, like all sports, has been massively impacted by the pandemic. Wimbledon was originally supposed to start next week but has been canceled outright.
The current plan is for Grand Slam tennis to return at the U.S. Open on Aug. 31, with a delayed French Open in September and October. However, New York’s record as a city hit hard by the virus means some players were already skeptical.
Top-ranked Ash Barty told The Associated Press this month she had concerns about going to the U.S. Open.
Djokovic and Rafael Nadal also questioned restrictions on issues like players movements and their entourages.
(With inputs from agencies)