The first player in the Open Era to win Roland Garros on debut, Mats Wilander spoke with UBITennis' Ubaldo Scanagatta and Steven Flinks about the criticism received by Novak Djokovic in the wake of the latter's Adria Tour fiasco.
Wilander defended Novak Djokovic, saying that the World No. 1 had the right intentions behind organising the event. The seven-time Slam champion also claimed it is the Serbian government, rather than any player, that is to be blamed for the debacle that ensued.
Four players, including Novak Djokovic, contracted the COVID-19 virus during the second leg of the Adria Tour in Zadar, Croatia. That led to the cancellation of the exhibition tournament, and a detailed apology from Djokovic.
Wilander said that he had met Novak Djokovic in the World No. 1's hometown of Belgrade, and that the 33-year-old had tears in his eyes at seeing the capacity crowds.
"I interviewed Djokovic on the first day of the Adria Tour, and he was very happy with what he had helped organize; he said he had tears in his eyes during the matches. As far as I'm concerned, the responsibility falls on the Serbian government."
Novak Djokovic shouldn't resign from the ATP Player Council if he doesn't want to: Mats Wilander
Wilander continued his defence of Novak Djokovic, and said that the Serb did the right thing but at the wrong time.
The Swede also claimed that the spate of COVID-19 cases at the Adria Tour could affect player performances ahead of the second Grand Slam of the 2020 season, the US Open.
"Nole has paid for his naivety in wanting to do the right thing . Having said that, I am worried about the season, because the long wave of the performance could affect everyone starting from the US Open."
Wilander also applauded Novak Djokovic for accepting the brickbats on behalf of other Adria Tour participants, and for the Novak Djokovic Foundation's work in the field of education.
"Why did Djokovic act as a lightning rod for the other players? Because the world is like this. But I think you should take your hat off in front of Nole because he tried to do something, and also for everything he does for the children of his country."
The 55-year-old Wilander also offered his opinion about the demands from some that Novak Djokovic should relinquish his ATP Player Council Presidency.
In this regard, the Swede said that Novak Djokovic should not become a victim of his own initiatives - and that he should only resign from the Council of his own volition.
"Should Djokovic resign? Not if he doesn't want to do it! If you expose yourself, it is normal that every now and then you are wrong, but you should not pay for your own initiative. His situation reminds me of what happened to me in 1988 at the time of the break between ATP and Grand Prix, when the only top player to support me was Tim Mayotte, while today the Big 3 are all part of the Player Council and want to work for the good of tennis."