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Novak Djokovic insists he feels NO guilt about players catching Coronavirus on his Adria Tour 

Novak Djokovic warmed up for the US Open by insisting he had no regrets over his ill-fated Adria Tour tournament, after which a number of tennis stars tested positive for coronavirus. 

The anti-vaxxer has faced huge criticism over his decision to host the competition in Croatia and Serbia in June.  Players were not obliged to observe social distancing measures and were filmed playing basketball and dancing together on stage at a nightclub.

Their bravado proved disastrous. Djokovic himself was struck down with COVID-19, along with his wife Jelena.  Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki were also diagnosed with the virus.

Dimitrov, who was pictured playing basketball with Djokovic in the days leading up to the tournament, was hit particularly hard after picking up the virus, admitting he struggled to breathe. 

But Djokovic has hit out at the media over criticisms of the event, insisting he felt no remorse over players that were infected and claiming there had been a ‘witch hunt’ against him. The world No 1 even promised he would ‘do it again’.   

‘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?’ 

Dimitrov, who said he stayed home for a month and was ‘not breathing well’, admitted his shock as he was ‘forced to be shut down’ by the virus. 

‘This thing is real,’ Dimitrov told Sky Sports. ‘The virus and how everything is handled. The toughest part is that we just don’t know. For everyone, not only for athletes. The uncertainty is what gets you the most. 

‘I was active all my life and then suddenly I was forced to be shut down, just physically, so it’s like you’re taking my wings away but somehow I found a way to try and understand what is going on and the more I thought about it things are happening at a basic rate so if we are careful, we do the right things, things will be alright. We have to absolutely respect the process of what is going on.’

In addition to facing pressure over the Adria Tour, Djokovic – who will be taking part in the US Open next month – has also come under fire for his stance on vaccinations. He blamed the media against for ‘taking it out of context’.  

‘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.’ 

The upcoming US Open has been mired in controversy, with a number of tennis stars pulling out due to ongoing concerns about coronavirus. Australian star Ashleigh Barty has already withdrawn, as has world No 2 Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and last year’s winner Bianca Andreescu. 

Nick Kyrgios is another high-profile name who will not appear at Flushing Meadows. He said the decision to press on with the Adria Tour was ‘bone-headed’.

The outspoken Australian was also among the voices to hit out at Djokovic, saying players could not be seen ‘dancing on tables’ in Europe and said such behaviour was ‘selfish’.

‘I’ve got no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open and if players want to go, that’s up to them so long as everyone acts appropriately and acts safely,’ he said at the start of this month.

‘But tennis players, you have to act in the interests of each other and work together.

‘You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck hosting the next exhibition. That’s just so selfish.’

Absentees in New York also include Djokovic’s rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with the former suffering from injury, while the Spaniard said he had to ‘follow his heart’ in pulling out. He also hit out at a ‘barbaric’ tennis calendar after four months of shutdown.

Djokovic said it would be ‘strange’ to not be competing against them and said he wanted to compete at the Grand Slam because of his desire to ‘reach more heights’. 

‘It is strange, because these two guys are the legends of our sport and with or without crowds, they are going to be missed a lot.  

‘One of the reasons why I keep on playing professional tennis on this level is because I want to reach more heights in the tennis world.’ 

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