Novak Djokovic has been at the receiving end of criticism ever since his Adria Tour, which featured packed stands and negligible safety protocols, came undone.
After a fortuitous incident-free first leg in Belgrade, the event ran into trouble during the second leg in Zadar, Croatia. Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki and Novak Djokovic himself all tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in the cancellation of the exhibition tournament.
In the aftermath of the fiasco, Novak Djokovic has had to cope with a plethora of brickbats from fellow players, experts and fans. Many have slammed him for his 'reckless' decision to host a tennis tournament without precautions in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, there are others like Gilles Simon, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marion Bartoli who have stood by the beleaguered Serb. Another such player who has come out in support of Novak Djokovic is his compatriot Janko Tipsarevic.
During a podcast with Craig Shapiro, the former World No. 8 lauded Novak Djokovic and team for organizing the tournament at short notice but acknowledged that the timing of the event could have been better.
"The Adria Tour was an incredible event," Tipsarevic said. "If we talk purely about the event, what Novak and his team were able to organize in one month's time is really really incredible. The issue was that the event was not organised at the right time due to the pandemic (situation)."
Tipsarevic also believes that Novak Djokovic didn't contravene any local regulations, as the Adria Tour only went ahead after receiving the go-ahead from the governments of Serbia and Croatia.
"Secondly, Novak and his team did not break any rules or laws because Serbia was one of the countries that had the least number of corona virus-infected people," Tipsarevic said.
The recently retired player went on to say that because of the stringent lockdown in place, the number of COVID-19 infected people in the region was low. That in turn gave rise to a perception that the worst of the pandemic in the country was over.
"The lockdown here in the first few months was very very brutal," Tipsarevic said. "I personally had isolation for 28 days straight, not leaving my apartment. Because of that, we had a very low number of infected people. We had basically thought that we had beaten corona, but unfortunately that wasn't the case, and people got infected at the Adria Tour."
"As unnecessary as it was, guys went out and had a good time. And then everybody started to get on Novak's back, that he was not protecting the players enough, which was not true at all," Tipsarevic added.
Novak Djokovic felt bad at getting grilled by the media: Janko Tipsarevic
On being asked if he had spoken to Novak Djokovic after the player tested positive for COVID-19, Tipsarevic replied in the affirmative. He also said that the World No. 1 felt 'quite bad' due to the grilling he received from the media.
"He felt quite bad in the first few days of finding out that he had corona," Tipsarevic said. "But this was probably due to all the psychological pressure he was dealing with, getting grilled by international and local media. He has been doing completely fine for the last 5-7 days."
Janko Tipsarevic admitted that the participating players at the Adria Tour were careless, as they hugged and shook hands with each other on the court and partied at nightclubs. But the former player added that everyone had been lulled into thinking that COVID-19 had subsided in the country.
"If you are getting the information, I am not blaming our government, information that you have only 20 infected people in the country, football games are allowed, and everything is allowed, then you tend to think that 'hey, there is really no more corona'," Tipsarevic said.
The Serb also gave the example of a football game attracting a mammoth crowd right before the first leg of the Adria Tour in Belgrade.
"Three days before the Adria Tour happened, there was a football match that had 30000 people. Because the information that we were giving was that there is an incredibly low number of people that are infected," Tipsarevic added.
While acknowledging that the visit to the nightclub was perhaps uncalled for, Tipsarevic maintained that Novak Djokovic has faced a disproportionate amount of flak.
"To a degree, you may say, they shouldn't have, maybe, gone to the nightclub without wearing gloves and masks. They should have been a bit more careful, but definitely not to a degree that everybody is condemning Novak."
Tipsarevic further said that Novak Djokovic has plenty of experience of being treated by the media unfairly due to the political image of his country.
"It is nothing new for him," Tipsarevic said. "He has had to deal with this quite often. I personally come from a country, which in the past, I am not saying right now because they are doing a good job, was terribly politically wrong. Serbia in the last 20 years had two or three wars, which in the eyes of your beloved CNN and BBC, made them the bad guys."
If the other superstars had done this, they would not have been treated the way Novak Djokovic has been treated: Tipsarevic
Without naming Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, Tipsarevic alluded to the two superstars and said that had a similar tournament been organised by either of them, they wouldn't have faced the amount of criticism that Novak Djokovic has faced.
"I don't think if any of the other superstars had done this, they would have been treated in the way Novak has been."
Tipsarevic further said that while Novak Djokovic is not detested everywhere in the world, the crowds at Wimbledon and the US Open are 'disgusting' with their treatment of him.
"There are places in the world where people love Novak like Asia, Russia, Italy," Tipsarevic said. "Novak is one of the favorite foreign players in Italy. (But) if you look at the last few US Open finals or Wimbledon final, it was disgusting how the crowd treated him."
On being asked if the top guys like Novak Djokovic who have a global appeal and audience need to be more careful in their actions, Tipsarevic gave a guarded response.
"The appropriate answer is 'yes'. You should be you, irrespective of you being number 1, 3 or 5 in the world, that doesn't really matter. Somebody like Rafa would behave exactly the same even if he is not Rafa. I also think somebody like Nick would behave exactly like he is right now even if he is number one in the world. To shorten my answer, no, I don't believe that."Published 03 Jul 2020, 20:55 IST