ZAGREB • Outspoken tennis star Nick Kyrgios led a barrage of criticism against the "boneheaded" decision to hold Novak Djokovic's charity event in Croatia, after Borna Coric revealed he had become the second high-profile player to test positive for the coronavirus.
Croatia's Coric, who played in the Adria Tour exhibition tournament last week, joined Grigor Dimitrov in getting the Covid-19 infection.
Dimitrov's coach Kristijan Groh and world No. 1 Djokovic's fitness coach Marko Paniki also tested positive, raising concerns for governing bodies who are bidding to restart the sport after a shutdown since March.
Last week, the ATP and the WTA issued revised calendars for the resumption of the circuit from August. But those plans may need to be redrawn, after the risks of athletes from different countries mixing without adhering to social distancing norms were highlighted.
"Boneheaded decision to go ahead with the 'exhibition' speedy recovery fellas, but that's what happens when you disregard all protocols. This IS NOT A JOKE," Australian Kyrgios said in a scathing social media post that featured three facepalm emojis.
Bulgarian world No. 19 Dimitrov played in Djokovic's event in Belgrade and the second leg in the Croatian coastal resort of Zadar as did other top names like Austria's Dominic Thiem (world No. 3) and Germany's Alexander Zverev (7).
The tournament witnessed packed stands in Belgrade, players hugging at the net, posing for pictures and attending press conferences together.
Serbian Djokovic organised nights out in Belgrade and pictures and videos of him dancing with the other participants at his event were posted on social media. With both Serbia and Croatia easing lockdown measures weeks before the event, players were not obliged to observe social distancing rules in either country.
The Sunday final between Djokovic and Russia's Andrey Rublev was cancelled as a precaution once Dimitrov tested positive.
Goran Ivanisevic, the director of the Zadar leg and Djokovic's coach, was greeted with jeers from fans when he broke the news courtside.
BLAST FROM DOWN UNDER
Boneheaded decision to go ahead... speedy recovery fellas, but that's what happens when you disregard all protocols.
'' NICK KYRGIOS, Australian tennis player, on the lack of health measures.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Pure hubris. His exho so wrong on so many levels. And flaunting their no precaution behavior on Twitter.
'' JON WERTHEIM, Sports Illustrated journalist, quoting a former player on the Adria Tour.
Fans also made their feelings known on social media, with Djokovic, who heads the ATP Tour players' council, under fire from the tennis community for being irresponsible and not taking the pandemic seriously.
Responding to a Twitter user who was critical of Djokovic, Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim replied: "Can't disagree... As a former player just wrote me: 'Pure hubris. His exho so wrong on so many levels. And flaunting their no precaution behavior on Twitter makes everything moving forward for the sport tougher'."
American great Chris Evert also criticised the organisers for the lack of social distancing, saying "... total physical contact, no face masks, even the fans were without masks.. I don't get it."
In a commentary for The Telegraph, tennis correspondent Simon Briggs' described the positive test results as a "sad but predictable outcome of what can only be viewed as reckless management" and that the players "behaved as if they were immune to the virus".
With international tennis suspended, 17-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic organised the tour as a charity event to be contested over four legs.
He reportedly took a coronavirus test yesterday after returning to Belgrade in the morning. The results were not available by press time.
Djokovic's brother Djordje, the overall tournament director, told Sportske Novosti daily paper online edition: "Novak? He took this news very hard. We undertook all the measures prescribed by the governments of Serbia and Croatia."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE