Novak Djokovic has come in for plenty of criticism from players and experts alike because of his ill-fated Adria Tour. The event had to be cancelled after four players (including Djokovic himself) tested positive for COVID-19 virus, and there has been no let-up in the backlash ever since.
Now, Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez has berated the World No. 1 for his part in holding a tennis tournament without any safety protocols in place.
The Adria Tour was a series of exhibition matches organised by the Novak Djokovic Foundation between a bunch of top-ranked players. The likes of Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov took the court together across the Balkans to raise money for COVID-19 relief, and the first leg in Belgrade was deemed to be a success.
However, with the matches attracting capacity crowds and featuring linesmen, ball kids, player hugs and even a shirtless player party, it seemed like just a matter of time before the virus struck. And that's exactly what happened during the second leg, in Zadar (Croatia).
Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki and Novak Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, forcing the tournament to be called off. Djokovic issued a heartfelt apology on his social media accounts for the entire mess, but that didn't stop the tennis world from hurling a steady stream of brickbats in his direction.
Speaking to El Partidazo de Cope, Feliciano Lopez said that Novak Djokovic's Adria Tour mishap would adversely affect the sport, which is bracing for a return in August.
"What Djokovic has done does not help," Lopez said. "I think he could do better, I am convinced. As the world is, you have to give a very different image than what has given."
The Spanish left-hander also slammed the Serbian authorities for granting permission to hold a mass gathering of 4000 people wearing no masks.
"The country's politicians, the health authorities, who allow them to hold an event of 4,000 people without masks in the stands, also have a very large part of responsibility for what has happened."
Novak Djokovic had to set an example: Feliciano Lopez
Feliciano Lopez further criticised the Serbian authorities for allowing football matches and player parties despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet abated. He also said that the Adria Tour provided a wrong example to the world.
"Outside of what the tournament is, they have also made football matches or parties that are avoidable and could have been done differently. I think in Serbia they have allowed them to do an event that did not give out the image (of tennis) that it should have."
Turning his attention back to Novak Djokovic, Lopez said that the World No. 1 needs to lead by example, but that he has done the exact opposite by organizing the Adria Tour without appropriate restrictions in place.
"Tennis is a serious sport like football or basketball. People have to set an example," Lopez said. "What happened in Belgrade with Djokovic did not bode well for the return to tennis. They needed to us comply with the strictest protocols, as it cannot be otherwise. The important thing is the safety of the people and that there are no contagions."
Feliciano Lopez, who is also director of the Mutua Madrid Open that is scheduled from September 12 to 20, hopes to have "40 or 50% of public" at the venue depending on the COVID-19 situation.
Lopez concluded by saying that the events at the Adria Tour should not be the lingering image of tennis in people's minds as the ATP Tour resumes in August. He also took a potshot at Novak Djokovic for having second thoughts about playing the US Open because of the strict regulations in place at the tournament.
"(I hope) people do not stay with this image of tennis because now when tennis returns to the United States, the protocol that we have to follow is very extreme. Many players (may) disagree and believe that they cannot subject us to such strict control."