A host of stars, including world No.1 Djokovic, have tested positive for Covid-19 after participating in the tournament, which drew large crowds and had limited social distancing in place, with players hugging each other and messing around, playing basketball and dancing together.
Djokovic, who bore the brunt of the widespread backlash, has since apologized for his involvement in organizing the event in the Balkans, saying in a statement he was “deeply sorry that our tournament has caused any damage. “.
Although he now admits that the tournament – originally scheduled to be played in four cities from June 13 to July 5 – was a mistake, Thiem says Djokovic was only trying to do something positive.
“He didn’t force any player to come there. He didn’t force any player to interact with the fans.
“It was our own decision. The whole event was also for a very good cause.”
The tour had attracted three-time Grand Slam finalist Thiem, world No.7 Alexander Zverev of Germany and three-time major semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, among others. Djokovic’s brother Djordje, 24, has been appointed tournament director.
On June 21, it was announced that Dimitrov had tested positive for the coronavirus and the organizers quickly canceled the entire series. Troicki would later test positive, as did Croatian Borna Coric, Djokovic, his wife, Jelena and others.
Thiem says the players got carried away by this joyous occasion which at the time was at odds with the local government advice to stay within a yard of each other.
“It was obviously a mistake on everyone’s part, but it’s been a long time now and everyone who has turned positive is healthy again, which is also a very good sign,” he said. said before adding that everyone had learned from their mistakes.
“We actually saw happy fans, we saw happy kids and then we kind of forgot to keep the distance, not to take pictures, not to hug the kids and that was a mistake.
“Everyone regrets it, of course, but I think, at the same time, it’s okay now.”
Thiem recently participated in and won the Bett1Aces tournament in Berlin – an event that followed social distancing rules and was partly played in a former airport hangar.
He has now focused on the US Open, which is set to take place behind closed doors at the end of August.
The Austrian says he has no concerns about his participation in New York and says the competition in Berlin can be an example of how to organize an event safely.
“If that happens I am very sure that it is safe and that I will also play because I guess it is time for the normal tour to return,” he said, admitting that it will be difficult to play. a big snap without thousands of fans in the stadium.
“It’s hard to imagine but, at the same time, it’s like that and we have to face it.
“I think the bottom line is that touring and tennis are slowly coming back.”
A number of high profile players have expressed doubts about the timeliness of the US Open this year, but organizers are happy with the safety precautions in place.
They got a boost when Serena Williams confirmed she would be playing Flushing Meadows and now Sister Venus has expressed her wish to be involved.
Like many sports, tennis has been hit hard by the global pandemic, with many events and tournaments canceled.
This was especially difficult for lower ranked players who struggled to make a living during the lockdown.
He has since clarified his comments, saying that while he supports lower-ranked and junior players, he wants to choose who deserves his support.
“What I said is that there are guys on the Future Tour who don’t live professionally,” he added.
“That’s what I said. And there are some guys who don’t deserve the support and I’m never going to change my mind.”
“There are a lot, a lot of guys who deserve it and that’s my opinion. But, well, the media back then did it badly and I hope I can put it in the right place for a bit now. . “
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