Novak Djokovic will be tested for the coronavirus, his media team said Monday, after two tennis players ranked among the top 40 in the world have tested positive for COVID-19 after participating in the Serbian star’s charity tennis exhibition series.
Additionally, five players at Serbia’s biggest soccer club have tested positive for the virus after being involved in sporting events where fans packed into the stands and social distancing was not enforced. There has been an overall softening of coronavirus restrictions in Serbia and Croatia, allowing for the increase in the number of positive cases among professional athletes.
Djokovic, the top-ranked player in the world, previously said he was against taking a vaccine for the virus even if it became mandatory to travel.
“He is fine, he has no symptoms but nonetheless, he needs to do the test and then we will see what’s going on,” his media team said in a statement.
Djokovic was the face behind the Adria Tour, a series of exhibition events that started in Belgrade and moved to Zadar, Croatia, this weekend.
Grigor Dimitrov, a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist from Bulgaria, said Sunday he tested positive for the coronavirus. Borna Coric played Dimitrov on Saturday in Zadar and said Monday he has also tested positive for the virus.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was among the spectators at the beach resort and will also be tested.
“I am really sorry for any harm I might have caused,” said Coric, who urged anyone who had contact with him to be tested.
That could be a lot of people. Coric, Djokovic and other players, including Marin Cilic, played basketball with a local team last week and posed together for photos.
Djokovic was supposed to play in the series final on Sunday, but that event was canceled.
Djokovic and Dimitrov also played in the Adria Tour’s opening exhibition a week earlier in Belgrade. Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev, who both played in the Serbian capital, said they would self-isolate despite negative tests.
“I deeply apologize to anyone that I have potentially put at risk by playing this tour,” Zverev wrote on Twitter.
There has also been an increase in virus cases among soccer players in other countries, notably Russia.
The virus outbreak at the tennis event in Zadar could hurt Croatia’s attempts to restart its lucrative tourist trade, which draws in visitors from around Europe but has slowed sharply during the pandemic. Tourism supplied a quarter of the Croatian government’s revenue last year.
Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said authorities have taken steps to protect the vulnerable groups in Zadar by stopping nursing home and hospital visits. He added that Croatia “currently has one of the most favorable situations in Europe” despite a spike in new cases that followed easing of lockdown measures. Croatia is scheduled to have a general election on July 5.
Neighboring Serbia held elections on Sunday. They were preceded by a loosening of lockdown measures, paving the way for the governing right-wing populist party to win a majority. It also made it possible for Djokovic to hold his first Adria Tour event in Serbia last week, and for soccer club Red Star Belgrade to hold soccer games with packed, raucous crowds.
Djokovic’s decision to fly home to Serbia before being tested has also attracted scrutiny. Most other players at the Adria Tour stayed in Croatia for testing after Dimitrov’s positive test was announced and Sunday’s final between Djokovic and Andrey Rublev was called off.
The 2020 tennis season, like all sports, has been massively impacted by the pandemic. Wimbledon was originally supposed to start next week but has been canceled outright. The current plan is for Grand Slam tennis to return at the US Open on Aug. 31, with a delayed French Open in September and October.
However, New York’s record as a city hit hard by the virus means some players were already skeptical. Top-ranked Ash Barty told The Associated Press this month she had “concerns” about going to the US Open. Djokovic and Rafael Nadal also questioned restrictions on issues like players’ movements and their entourages.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.