The backlash for Novak Djokovic following his Adria Tour fiasco does not seem to be abating any time soon. And now former Australian player Sam Groth has joined the bandwagon of tennis players slamming the World No. 1 for his reckless organisation of a tournament in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Writing for the Herald Sun, the recently retired Australian minced no words in deriding the actions of Novak Djokovic at the Adria Tour. Groth said that in the aftermath of the now infamous exhibition tournament, Novak Djokovic's position as the president of the ATP Player Council is untenable.
"Novak Djokovic has got to go," Groth said. "His position as president of the player council is laughable. He must resign."
"Would you want that person leading you? What the hell was he thinking. Who the hell is advising him?"
Groth added that while the relevant authorities were trying their best to resume professional tennis amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Novak Djokovic was doing everything possible to jeopardize the return of the sport.
"While players and officials around the world are doing everything in their power to get our sport back up and running amid a global pandemic, the No 1 player in the world is filmed dancing, partying and hugging people in direct violation of all world health guidelines," Groth said.
Sam Groth was also critical about Novak Djokovic's absence from a Zoom call involving 400 other players. The discussion was reportedly about the sport's safe return in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"While Novak was dancing the limbo and hanging out with his mates, a host of other players were on a call trying to work out the logistics of restarting the tour. I’m told Novak was not even on that call. How can the president of a sport not be on that kind of call? That’s not leadership."
"Novak must know the only option he has is to resign. Players will have lost confidence in him. There’s no alternative," said Groth.
Novak Djokovic should have led by example: Sam Groth
Due to lax implementation of COVID-19 protocols at the Adria Tour, four players - Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki and Novak Djokovic himself - tested positive for the dreaded virus in Zadar. That forced the exhibition tournament to be cancelled altogether, and elicited a detailed apology from the World No. 1.
Accusing Novak Djokovic for causing a COVID-19 outbreak at his exhibition tournament, Sam Groth said that the Serb's apology and subsequent donations to clinics do not make up for his misdeeds.
Groth particularly slammed Novak Djokovic's reluctance to undergo a test in Zadar despite Grigor Dimitrov, one of the participants at the Adria Tour, testing positive.
"He is responsible for a COVID-19 outbreak," Groth said. "Numerous people have tested positive as a result of his event. I don’t care if he’s apologized or donated money to clinics."
"There was clearly no consideration of people’s health when that party went ahead. He didn’t get tested for days after Grigor Dimitrov revealed he had contracted the virus. Novak should have led by example. (But) what Novak did stands to have further repercussions."
Groth believes Novak Djokovic's irresponsible actions will make it tougher for a tournament like the US Open - which is scheduled to take place in August - to implement safety protocols.
"Take the US Open for instance," the Aussie said. "Taking into account players, support staff and organisers you’ve already got well over 1000 people to keep tabs on. Add to that catering, security and media. Not one single person going to a bar or club, no one going for a Tinder hook up and not one person going to see a friend for dinner. How do you enforce that and rely on people to do the right thing when the No. 1 player in the world has just done what he did?
Groth further said that Novak Djokovic's missteps are particularly damaging because of how much the other players stand to lose. The Aussie emphasized that if Djokovic misses the US Open because of what happened at the Adria Tour, it wouldn't affect him much. But if any of the lower-ranked players are forced to skip the tournament - or if the tournament is cancelled in its entirety - it would be a big financial blow for them.
"If Novak misses the US Open the only thing he misses is the opportunity to increase the number of Slams he has. He doesn’t need the money, he won’t care. He’s not trying to put food on the table back home or pay a mortgage in time," Groth said.
"His behavior is selfish and so irresponsible and shows a total disregard for those on the tour who live tournament to tournament. If he just wants to be No. 1 and live by his way of thinking – that’s fine. But if so, step down as president," he added.
Groth also came out in support of his compatriot Nick Kyrgios, who has been pretty vocal in his criticism of Novak Djokovic. But while the 32-year-old applauded Kyrgios for speaking up for the right things, he slammed other players like Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev for their role in the Adria Tour fiasco and for not adhering to social distancing protocols.
"We’re living in some pretty incredible times right now," Groth said. "People with a profile have to be seen to be doing and saying the right thing. People look to their idols for comfort and guidance in times like this so thank God for Nick Kyrgios."
"I’ve always been a supporter of Nick but the way he has spoken out against Djokovic, Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and others this week shows just the kind of person he is. He stands up for what’s right," he added.
"All too often people criticize Nick for his behaviour and remind him of his responsibility as a public figure so I hope people don’t forget about the damage Novak has done for a long time," Groth went on.
Sam Groth drew a line between Nick Kyrgios's behavior and what Novak Djokovic did at the Adria Tour, saying that there was no comparison between the two. The Australian said that the World No. 1 has put people's lives and health in jeopardy, something that Kyrgios has never come close to doing.
"What Novak and his friends did is so much worse than anything Nick has ever done. You can’t even compare it. Nick has never put people’s health and lives at risk."
Condemming Novak Djokovic's actions at the Adria Tour, Groth concluded by reiterating that the Serb needs to take responsibility for the careers he has jeopardized and give up the Council Presidency.
"Novak Djokovic has potentially caused irreparable global damage to his sport and his peers. If the sport can’t recover soon there’s a genuine risk that some careers are over. The careers of the very people Djokovic as player council president is supposed to be fighting for. He must go."Published 05 Jul 2020, 19:05 IST