Serbian tennis pro Novak Djokovic defended the massive crowd of 20,000 spectators that showed up for the opening day of his charity tennis tour in Belgrade, saying he’s sticking to the coronavirus guidelines provided by the government.
Fans filled the stands at the Adria Tour charity tournament on Friday to watch Djokovic and other top players face off, but the lack of social distancing and face masks among those in attendance raised concerns that event organizers hadn’t taken the necessary precautions.
“We have different circumstances and measures, so it’s very difficult to think of international standards,” Djokovic said.
“You can also criticize us and say this is maybe dangerous, but it’s not up to me to make the calls about what is right or wrong for health,” he continued. “We are doing what the Serbian government is telling us and hopefully we soon will get back on tour collectively.”
The Serbian government recently lifted lockdown restrictions, recommending people stay only 3 feet apart. Serbia has registered more than 12,000 coronavirus cases and 252 deaths, although the numbers have been rising again since the government lifted most of the lockdowns and restrictions last month.
“Of course, lives have been lost and that’s horrible to see, in the region and worldwide,” Djokovic said, “but life goes on, and we as athletes are looking forward to competing.”
Djokovic has said he was thinking of skipping the U.S. Open — if it is played — because he described precautions put on players as “extreme” and not ”sustainable,” including a 14-day quarantine for foreign players, a limit of one person per competitor at matches and mandatory lodging near the tournament site in Queens.
Djokovic’s Adria Tour is scheduled to move on to neighboring Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.