Ten months after his mask-free Adria Tour helped to spread COVID-19 around the Balkans – and got him and his wife infected – Novak Djokovic and family have gotten the hint about the dangers of the virus which is still not under control.
As a result, this week’s new ATP Belgrade event run by the No. 1 player’s brother and father will lay on a COVID-safe inaugural edition which will actually stick to most accepted safety protocols.
The stands in the capital will be devoid of fans, with players locked into the usual ATP bio-security protocols.
“Masks will be mandatory, inside and outside. We want to respect the rules in order to protect the players,” TD Djordje Djokovic told Serbian N1 TV.
Players will be confined to what he called “controlled spaces” where “isolation is currently a necessity.”
The week could emerge as an image cleanup for the 33-year-old Djokovic, who has been noted as something of an anti-vaxxer.
“The organisers will certainly want to improve this image (of Djokovic) and this is what motivated their decision that there would be no audience this year,” an official told AFP..
The event lost the star power of Austria’s US Open winner Dominic Thiem after the Austrian withdrew due to lack of preparation.
The Adria Tour from last June quickly turned into a notorious clown show and had to be cancelled halfway through its run of full-house crowds and players living their best life in discos and restaurants off the court.
Competitors including Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and several Serb players all came up positive during the exhibition event laid on during the ATP Tour shutdown from March through August.
Djordje Djokovic can only hope for the best this time around:
“The ATP is so far very satisfied with what we have done and we hope to get the best marks and, within a year or two, get rewarded with an ATP 500 licence” he said optimistically.