The Covid-19 infection left behind a sizeable crater in the world of tennis through the entity that was the Adria Tour. Novak Djokovic testing positive for the virus widened the cracks surrounding this crater. The extent of the damage is now being retold through the continued re-sharing of the photos and videos of what transpired within the event and its ancillary activities.
As much as this has transformed the turn of events into a macabre narrative, it has also firmly pushed the counter of culpability on the world no. 1. For more reasons than one.
Novak Djokovic and tennis: The diverging roads
After the initial mindlessness of the gaiety and the downplaying of the threat aside, Djokovic’s carefully-worded statement stoked the simmering anger.
Especially, since it came after a frustratingly-long wait of over a day-and-a-half since Grigor Dimitrov – the first Adria Tour participant to test positive – publicly shared his health status. “…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,” read the initial part of Djokovic’s statement soon after his clarification about the details of when he got tested.
“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,” the message read, further. Well-intentioned, yes.
Promoted with the idea of solidarity and compassion, yes, indeed. But nowhere in his statement did Djokovic include “wrong” and “misguided” to denote the full extent of the choices exercised in the event he created and organised.
In failing to do so, his statement made Djokovic look like he was doubling down all over again while simultaneously lending suggestiveness that just because his actions were motivated by good-naturedness, they were to be impervious to backfiring and from having fall-outs.
And, as a way of off-setting these backlashes, the latter part of his message had a semblance of contrition not only towards the onlookers but also vis-à-vis the sport. In presenting so, the latter part of Djokovic’s statement ended up becoming a contradiction to what he had insisted regarding the prevalence of the virus in the countries where the Adria Tour was supposed to pass through, after the opening day’s play in Belgrade.
“We have different circumstances and measures, so it’s very difficult to think of international standards,” he had vehemently declared, then. While, in his recent statement, he remarked, “We organized the tournament at the moment when the virus has weakened, believing that the conditions for hosting the Tour had been met.
Unfortunately, the virus is still present, and it is a new reality that we are still learning to cope and live with. I am hoping things will ease with time so we can all resume lives the way they were. I am extremely sorry for each individual case of infection”.
This incidental gainsaying, then, has also left behind a curious wake of a conundrum about the 33-year-old for the tennis world – especially the administrators and his fellow players – to mull over. Here is Djokovic, the 17-time Slam champion whose personal beliefs and choices are completely unlike the ones that are usually the norm.
His firm adherence to his convictions and his insistence that they have been instrumental in his success is also indisputable. His keenness to encourage alternative healing therapies and its practitioners is debatable yet within the confines of his personal preferences.
But with Djokovic’s choices spilling onto the world-at-large and onto reality as they have done now, does tennis have enough fortitude to show it has the wherewithal to separate itself from its players, their stature notwithstanding? The tennis world held on quite long to hear back from Novak Djokovic.
And now, after having done so, it’s time the sport emphasises that as mutually inclusive its and its players' interests are, the sport’s and its players’ view of the greater good are not always in alignment irrespective of the players’ ardent ambitiousness to see it through.