In the wake of his withdrawal from the Croatian leg of the Adria Tour, world #19 Grigor Dimitrov has announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus. The Bulgarian, who looked listless in a 1-4 1-4 defeat at the hands of Borna Coric yesterday, flew back to Monaco where he tested positive. That positive test will almost certainly raise real concerns amongst the other players who have competed on the Adria Tour, not least Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev.
It is not clear whether Dimitrov picked up the illness whilst in Serbia or earlier. He had spent much of the lockdown in the USA, which has a significantly larger number of cases than Serbia, but it is unlikely that any further clarification will be possible. But it would be no surprise to see other players test positive, with social distancing having scarcely been adhered to during the Serbian leg of the Tour, with players participating in a football and a basketball match, as well as enjoying the Belgrade nightlife.
That cavalier attitude now seems rather hard to defend. One casualty has already been confirmed, with the scheduled final between Djokovic and Andrey Rublev cancelled. Dimitrov’s positive test is, however, unlikely to have any impact on the proposed restart of the ATP season in August leading into the US Open, the first Major since the Australian Open in January. But if the coronavirus has spread too any of the other competitors on the Adria Tour, as seems almost certain, those players may struggle to return in time to play in North America.
That will be of particular concern to Djokovic, who will surely be loathe to miss out on the opportunity to add to his tally of 17 Slams. The Serbian had defended the Adria Tour from criticisms of recklessness, arguing that the staging of the event did not cross the line. But, in truth, even if it was safe to have fans in attendance, which is far from certain, it is hard to understand how more precautions weren’t taken amongst the players.
There is small chance of two players coming within two metres of each other on court, making tennis a relatively safe sport to play. But that is a poor excuse for the apparent lack of regular testing which has been instrumental in allowing other sports, most notably football, to return. And the decision taken to engage in unnecessary extra-curricular activities in the midst of a global pandemic is harder to understand still, let alone justify.
The priority now is the health of all those involved in the Adria Tour. It has been reported that the players who have been in contact with Dimitrov are being tested for the virus as a matter of urgency. One can only hope that the spread is limited and those who have been infected are able to make a complete recovery. But it is also to be hoped that the Adria Tour may serve as an example not to be followed. The course of the coronavirus pandemic has not yet run its course. Not by a long shot. That must remain at the forefront of players’ and organisers’ minds going forward.