Australia tennis star Nick Kyrgios has again taken aim at world No.1 Novak Djokovic, after the Serb defended the Adria Tour debacle which saw four players become infected with COVID-19.
The competition, run by Djokovic’s charitable foundation in June, turned into a farce with players not observing social distancing and packed crowds, at a time when the ATP tour was shut down because of coronavirus.
Along with Djokovic and his wife, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all tested positive for COVID-19, as did Troicki’s eight-months pregnant wife.
The event drew international condemnation, with Kyrgios especially vocal in his criticism.
But a week out from the start of the US Open, the first grand slam tournament since the pandemic, Djokovic remained unrepentant.
“We tried to do something with the right intentions,” he told the New York Times.
“Yes, there were some steps that could have been done differently, of course, but am I going to be then forever blamed for doing a mistake? I mean, OK, if this is the way, fine, I’ll accept it, because that’s the only thing I can do.
“Whether it’s fair or not, you tell me, but I know that the intentions were right and correct, and if I had the chance to do the Adria Tour again, I would do it again.
“I don’t think I’ve done anything bad to be honest. I do feel sorry for people that were infected.
“Do I feel guilty for anybody that was infected from that point onward in Serbia, Croatia and the region? Of course not.
“It’s like a witch hunt, to be honest. How can you blame one individual for everything?”
Those comments drew strong criticism from Kyrgios.
“Scary that people take zero ownership, group of albatrosses,” he said on Instagram.
Earlier in the pandemic Djokovic said he was against a compulsory coronavirus vaccine, but maintains his stance as an anti-vaxxer has been misrepresented.
“I see that the international media has taken that out of context a little bit, saying that I am completely against vaccines of any kind,” he said.
“My issue here with vaccines is if someone is forcing me to put something in my body. That I don’t want. For me that’s unacceptable. I am not against vaccination of any kind, because who am I to speak about vaccines when there are people that have been in the field of medicine and saving lives around the world?
“I’m sure that there are vaccines that have little side effects that have helped people and helped stop the spread of some infections around the world.
“How are we expecting that to solve our problem when this coronavirus is mutating regularly from what I understand?”
With both Roger Federer (injury) and Rafael Nadal (COVID-19 concerns) absent from the upcoming US Open, Djokovic will start a hot favourite to claim his 18th grand slam title.
But he says his participation was in doubt until the last moment.
“I was very close to not coming,” he said.
“There were a lot of uncertainties. And there still are, yeah, a lot of things that are not really clear.”
“I want to play. I mean that’s why I’m here. I am personally not afraid of being in a risky, dangerous health situation for myself. If I felt that way, I most likely would not be here. I am cautious of course, and I have to be responsible and of course respect the regulations and rules and restrictions as anybody else.
“But things are unpredictable. Anything can happen in the tennis court or off the tennis court.”