Sports, Tennis

Djokovic to host Serbia tournament a year after Covid fiasco

Published : 18 Apr 2021 09:21 PM


World number one Novak Djokovic will relaunch the Serbia Open tournament in Belgrade on Monday, less than a year after a charity event he organised in the city ended in fiasco.

Djokovic was among several players to test positive after last year's event, which was held in front of thousands of fans with no social distancing.

Organisers insist that the forthcoming ATP clay court event scheduled for April 19-25 will be very different -- no fans will be allowed and Covid protocols will apply.

The Novak Tennis Centre in Belgrade will also stage a second clay court event from May 24 on the eve of Roland Garros.

Apart from Djokovic, other top players in Belgrade this week event will include Italy's Matteo Berrettini as well as Russian sensation Aslan Karatsev who made the Australian Open semi-finals earlier this year.

The tournament is organised by the 33-year-old's family with his younger brother Djordje acting as director, and will be played in his "Novak" facility where he regularly trains.

The Serbian capital stepped in, relaunching the Serbia Open after a nine-year hiatus, after Budapest withdrew from organising a tournament.

Fans will not be allowed in the stands, while the players will have to follow "strict security protocols" prescribed by the ATP, Djordje Djokovic told the N1 TV channel.

"Masks will be mandatory, inside and outside. We want to respect the rules in order to protect the players."

He added that the players would be housed in "controlled spaces", noting that "isolation is currently a necessity".

According to tennis expert Nebojsa Viskovic, organising the tournament by the book is crucial to revamp the world number one's tarnished reputation as a host.

"The organisers will certainly want to improve this image (of Djokovic) and this is what motivated their decision that there would be no audience this year," Viskovic told AFP.