The world number one Novak Djokovic has been in contention since Monday at the Belgrade tournament, where the Adria tour, which he organized last June in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, had ended in a cluster and had earned him many reviews.
After nine years of absence, the Serbian capital is back on the ATP calendar, taking advantage of Budapest’s decision to withdraw from the circuit. She picked up an ATP 250 clay court tournament which will take place in the Novak tennis center located on the banks of the Danube in the heart of Belgrade. An opportunity for Djokovic, 33, to try to restore his image, tarnished by the criticisms aroused by the debacle of last June and his controversial positions on the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular his opposition to vaccination. The Belgrade tournament bears the Djokovic brand, since it is his younger brother Djordje who is the director.
“The organizers will certainly be keen to improve this image (of Djokovic) and this is what motivated their decision to organize the tournament without the participation of the public”, explains to AFP Nebojsa Viskovic, journalist specializing in tennis . The tournament attracted several big names, in addition to Djoko, eliminated this week in the round of 16 of the Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo, such as Matteo Berrettini (N.10) or the Russian sensation Aslan Karatsev, semi-finalist of the Open d ‘Australia.
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The players will all be called upon to respect “the strict protocols” of health security prescribed by the ATP, explained Djordje Djokovic. “Masks will be compulsory, inside and outside, we want to respect the rules to protect the players,” he told TV channel N1. The players will be accommodated in “controlled spaces, hotels officially made available to them”, added the tournament director noting that “isolation is currently a necessity”. During the Adria tour, 4,000 spectators gathered in the stands. Public and players, a little too enthusiastic about a resumption of competition after a long break due to the pandemic, had not respected the social distancing measures. The Adria tour had to be interrupted after several players, including Djokovic himself, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, Croatian Borna Coric and Serbian Viktor Troicki contracted the coronavirus. During the tournament, some hugged each other over the net, played basketball and even danced together at a nightclub.
Second ATP tournament in May
Dominic Thiem regretted a “mistake”. “We trusted the Serbian government’s coronavirus rules, but we were too optimistic,” N.4 wrote at the time. Djokovic, winner of 18 Grand Slam tournaments, apologized to him and expressed his “deep regret”. “The organizers did nothing against the rules. It was perhaps too early (…) this time, there will be no problems, ”commented Viktor Troicki, who has since become the coach of the Serbian team in the Davis Cup. Serbia had lifted health measures to fight against the coronavirus when the Adria Tour started on June 13 in Belgrade. The organizers of the Belgrade tournament, which had four editions between 2009 and 2012, aim not only to install it in the calendar, but also to move it upmarket to obtain the ATP 500 label, explains Djordje Djokovic. “This is definitely our goal (…) ATP is so far very satisfied with what we have done and we hope to obtain the best marks and be, within a year or two, rewarded with a license. ATP 500, ”he said. And it’s off to a good start: ATP announced on Friday that a second tournament will take place in Belgrade from May 22 to 29 to fill the postponement of one week of Roland Garros. The program will also be enriched with a WTA tournament in May.