Dubai: World No.3 Dominic Thiem has strongly backed the world’s top player Novak Djokovic and his Adria Tour that went awry midway through the event last month.
In interview with CNN Sport’s Patrick Snell, Thiem – who was one of those playing in the exhibition event – insisted that it was unfair to criticise Djokovic for his part in organising the tournament.
The Adria Tour, organised by Djokovic, was an exhibition tournament held in June 2020 in Belgrade (Serbia) and Zadar (Croatia) to bring in a positive element to the sport.
The event came under heavy criticism due to its lack of social distancing procedures and allowing a full crowd. One of the top players Grigor Dimitrov was among the first to announce he had tested positive, followed by Borna Coric, Viktor Troicki and Djokovic himself over the next two days forcing the cancellation of the exhibition event.
Now, despite admitting the tournament that was scheduled to be played in four cities between June 13 to July 5, Thiem has backed Djokovic as “trying to do something positive”.
“It was unfair to him because he didn’t break any law and he didn’t force us to play,” Thiem said in the interview.
If it’s (US Open) going to happen, I’m very sure that it’s safe and that I’m also going to play because I guess it’s time that the normal Tour is coming back
“He [Djokovic] 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 for a very good cause as well,” he added.
However, the Austrian professional who will turn 27 later this year, was quick to admit that it was an error in judgement on the part of the players.
“It was obviously a mistake from everybody but it’s a long time ago now really and everybody who got positive there is healthy again, which is a very good sign as well,” Thiem explained.
“In reality, we saw happy fans, we saw happy kids and then we kind of forgot to keep the distance, to not take pictures, to not hug the kids and it was a mistake. Everybody regrets it, of course, but it’s time to look to the future,” he insisted.
Thiem’s career-high ATP ranking of world No. 3 came just before the world went into lockdown mode in March this year. He is the second highest-ranked Austrian player in history behind Thomas Muster (who went on to be the world number one) while winning the 1995 French Open.
Thiem was certain he will be there at the re-scheduled 2020 US Open when it is played from August 31 to September 13.
“If it’s going to happen, I’m very sure that it’s safe and that I’m also going to play because I guess it’s time that the normal Tour is coming back,” he said.
“It’s tough to imagine [no fans] but at the same time, it is how it is and we have to deal with it. I think the main thing is that the Tour, and the tennis, slowly comes back,” he added.