Novak Djokovic claims he is being subjected to a “witch hunt” following the disastrous end to his Adria Tour in Belgrade, Serbia, last month.
The world number one — who remains uncertain about playing at this year’s US Open — tested positive for COVID-19 during the event, along with fellow players Viktor Troicki, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric, leading to it being called off.
Images and videos of the players hugging at the net, playing basketball together and partying at the tournament were posted on social media.
Critics, including Australian star Nick Kyrgios, claimed the Serb was irresponsible to stage the event amid the pandemic, but Djokovic has slammed the criticism.
“I can only see criticism lately and much of it is malicious,” he told Serbia’s daily Sportski Zurnal.
“It’s obviously more than just criticism, it’s like an agenda and a witch hunt. Someone has to take the fall, a big name,” he said.
“We complied with all the laws and regulations. But we’ve learned our lessons and some things could have probably been done in a different way.”
Djokovic tested negative after the second test he took last week and, having conceded after the failed tournament that it came to soon, he reiterated that he had acted in good faith.
“My intention was pure, I was wholeheartedly committed to organising a humanitarian event to help players and tennis federations in the [Balkan] region.”
The first leg in Belgrade held on June 13 and 14 with no social distancing rules in place drew a sell-out 4,000 crowd and as many fans turned up in Zadar’s Visnjik tennis complex with a capacity of 9,000 a week later.
Fans in Zadar were ordered by the Croatian government to stay two metres apart but the final, due to feature Djokovic and Russian Andrey Rublev, was called off after Dimitrov tested positive for the virus.
Kyrgios was scathing with his criticism, describing the decision to go ahead with the tournament as “boneheaded” in a Twitter post.
“Speedy recovery fellas, but that’s what happens when you disregard all protocols. This IS NOT A JOKE.”
After calling out Djokovic, Kyrgios became embroiled in a social media spat with Boris Becker after branding German world number seven Alexander Zverev “selfish” after he was filmed dancing in a room full of people just days after the Adria Tour event.
Zverev tested negative for coronavirus after the Adria Tour, but said in a statement he would still self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution.
Becker then called Kyrgios a “rat” for airing his thoughts on Twitter, to which Kyrgios responded by referring to the German great as a “doughnut”.
The 33-year-old returned to training on Tuesday, but said he wasn’t sure if he would play in the final major on the calendar, or if the US Open would even go ahead.
“I still haven’t decided whether I will play in the US Open, the upsurge in registered COVID-19 cases in the United States and New York in particular are not playing into the event’s hands,” he said.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, 32,251 people have died of coronavirus in New York state.
Queens, where the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre is situated, has 65,347 confirmed coronavirus cases, the fourth most of any county district in the US.
The US Open is scheduled to take place between September 1-14.