Novak Djokovic has been hosting the controversial Adria Tour over the last couple of weeks, but things have gone pear-shaped for the tournament in a big way.
Featuring some of the top players in the world including Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov among others, the first leg of the Adria Tour in Belgrade was a hit. However, what worried onlookers and critics alike was the absence of social distancing measures and other coronavirus-related protocols at the tournament.
The players were seen hugging each other and freely mingling with fans, making many question the safety of those in attendance.
There were no COVID-19 related incidents in the first leg of the Adria Tour in Belgrade, where Dominic Thiem beat Filip Krajinovic to emerge victorious. However, there was major trouble in store during its second leg in Zadar as Grigor Dimitrov revealed he had tested positive for COVID-19. That led the final of the second leg, between Novak Djokovic and Andrey Rublev, to be cancelled.
Subsequently, Borna Coric, another player participating in the Adria Tour, also contracted the virus. Novak Djokovic's fitness trainer and Grigor Dimitrov's coach ended up falling prey to COVID-19 too, suggesting that the Adria Tour had become a hotspot for the deadly virus.
Novak Djokovic, the brain behind the Adria Tour, has earned the ire of a plethora of players, current and retired. Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray, Noah Rubin, Andy Roddick and Dan Evans have all criticized the World No. 1 for conducting a tennis tournament with scant regard to the COVID-19 situation in the world.
However, Richard Gasquet has come out in defense of Djokovic, saying that the Serb didn't force anyone to participate in the tournament.
Novak Djokovic didn't demand 5000 spectators: Gasquet
In an interview with L'Equipe, Gasquet asserted that Novak Djokovic shouldn't be blamed as he didn't ask people to congregate for the tournament in such large numbers.
The Frenchman instead laid the blame for the COVID-19 cases at the Adria Tour on the 'government', and also termed the crowd 'delusional'.
"Djokovic is not the culprit," Gasquet said. "It was not he who put a gun on the guys' temples to demand that there be 5,000 spectators. It was the government that chose to accommodate these 5,000 people in one place. But it is sure that all these people were delusional ... It was the only place in the world where we saw an audience like that."
Gasquet further said that the COVID-19 outbreak has brought about a new era in tennis, where full houses at tournaments may not be seen for a very long time. The Frenchman believes that going forward, it will be unlikely for tournaments to be cancelled because of one or two positive cases.
"On people's minds, it's weird to have these positive cases. But you just have to understand that we are entering a new era. A completely different world from the one we knew. But it would surprise me that it would stop the circuit. The tournaments are not going to stop for that."