World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic has tested positive for coronavirus.
Djokovic’s positive test comes after his Adria Tour tennis project held two events in Belgrade and Zadar which ignored social distancing protocols.
The 33 year-old, who has revealed he is opposed to all forms of vaccination, stated that he did not have symptoms but that he had become sixth direct participant in his exhibition series to catch the virus.
Djokovic’s wife Jelena has also tested positive, although their children have not.
Grigor Dimitrov was the first participant in the event who was confirmed to have contracted the virus and the Bulgarian’s coach Kristijan Groh, as well as tennis player Viktor Troicki, have also reportedly contracted COVID-19 positive.
Dimitrov’s positive result caused the cancellation of the final between Djokovic and Andrey Rublev.
Rublev, Alexander Zverev and Marin Cilic who also played in the events have tested negative but suggested they will all now self-isolate for up to 14 days.
Djokovic has come under heavy criticism for the crass lack of safety protocols at the Balkan exhibition series and for stubbornly refusing to make concessions to social distancing with players seen hugging after games, playing football and basketball as well as partying in a Belgrade nightclub.
But the player released a statement saying the tournaments were borne out of intentions to do good adding that organisers thought the timing was right due to a belief that “the virus has weakened”.
”The moment we arrived in Belgrade we went to be tested. My result is positive, just as Jelena’s, while the results of our children are negative,” Djokovic said.
”Everything we did in in the past month we did with a pure heart. Our tournament meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region.
“The Tour has been 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.”
Novak Djokovic who is also the president of the ATP Players Council has seen his position come under threat after several players slammed his conduct.
British No 1 Dan Evans criticised Djokovic’s approach in not following globally established health and safety precautions.
Australian star Nick Kyrgios also lashed out at the Serb and described the decision to stage the tour as ‘boneheaded’.
Djokovic, however, struck a note of contrition in his statement and apologised for his role in spreading the virus.
”I am extremely sorry for each individual case of infection,’ said Djokovic. I hope that it will not complicate anyone’s health situation and that everyone will be fine.
“I will remain in self-isolation for the next 14 days, and repeat the test in five days.”