How tennis will move on from the Adria Tour’s major controversy

The Adria Tour has sparked controversy since its inception. Here’s how tennis will move on following the slew of COVID-19 positive tests at the event.

The Adria Tour has come under heavy fire since it’s official announcement 3 weeks ago. During a global pandemic, why should there be any tournament with fans, regardless of the government restrictions that were followed?

Nevertheless, the tournament continued its preparations, as did the criticisms. The first leg in Belgrade went smoothly until the middle of Day 1, where the public was told that the tour’s third leg in Montenegro would be scrapped due to virus concerns. Serbians were one of the many not allowed to travel to Montenegro through its closed borders.

The tour moved onto Zadar, Croatia, and was running as planned until Grigor Dimitrov pulled out of the tour following his 4-1, 4-1 loss on Day 1 citing some sort of illness. He looked visibly drained on the court, enough to warrant his withdrawal from the tour.

Dimitrov confirmed a positive COVID-19 test result yesterday and the leg’s final match (Djokovic vs Rublev) was canceled. Shortly after, it was confirmed that Borna Coric, Dimitrov’s opponent, also tested positive for the virus. The situation worsened as both Dimitrov’s coach and Djokovic’s fitness trainer both tested positive as of this morning.

Djokovic also elected not to undergo a test at the official event hotel in Zadar, instead electing to return home to Serbia. As of this morning, he hasn’t taken a test, citing his “lack of symptoms”.

What was completely perplexing was the lack of awareness by Djokovic and the tour’s organizers. While the restrictions in both Serbia and Croatia have been eased, it certainly wasn’t enough to justify the actions of the players and tournament organizers through the last two weeks. Players were seen hugging at the net, posing for pictures, and even dancing together at a party as if there was no virus at all. To top it all off, fans were packed into the stadium with no regard to social distancing practices and without a thought to wear a mask.

“Boneheaded decision to go ahead with the ‘exhibition’ speedy recovery fellas, but that’s what happens when you disregard all protocols,” Kyrgios wrote on Twitter this morning. “This IS NOT A JOKE.”

Kyrgios was among the huge number of current and former players blasting Djokovic and the Adria Tour. Roddick displayed textbook cheekiness with his response to a Brad Gilbert tweet.

Kyrgios and Roddick weren’t the only ones shooting down Djokovic’s tour. British player Dan Evans expressed his disdain with the event and that the World #1 needs to take some responsibility in his major misfire.

“Running exhibitions is good and the one in France [Ultimate Tennis Showdown] looks like they’re social distancing, he said.

“There’s been a total disregard to that [at the Adria Tour] really and it’s unfortunate Grigor has it and Coric has it, but if you strip it back, is it a surprise? I think that’s the question we should all ask. I think we could definitely learn from that and hopefully, that event doesn’t take away from the US Open.”

“Put it like this, I don’t think he should be planning a players’ party and dancing all over each other…He should feel some responsibility in his event and how it’s transpired.”

Alize Cornet, ranked 59th in the WTA, also expressed her feelings regarding the Tour. To her and all tennis fans, something was wrong from the start.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the entire situation is regarding the future of tennis. There isn’t currently any statement from the ATP or WTA regarding their returns to play in August but given the current situation, it’s likely that tennis will need to undergo strict regulations to combat the spread of the virus.

Whether that’s forcing the postponement of all exhibition events for the time being or just the events taking place in Europe, top tennis officials need to pick the right side of this situation in order to ensure player safety as they gear up for the proposed August return.

If more players and coaches test positive, it’s going to pose a huge problem for tennis. If it can’t handle an exhibition event with 8 players, how is it going to handle a weekly tournament schedule with up to 128 players?  Fans will not be attending for much of the early going, it doesn’t change the fact that players will be at an inherent risk.

Novak Djokovic rushed tennis’ return in an attempt to restore normalcy to the sport. It may have set everything back months in the process.