Fans welcome at Djokovic charity tournament

Money raised will be donated to various regional charities

BELGRADE After being suspended for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic, top-level international tennis returns this weekend in Belgrade with a charity tournament hosted by world No 1 Novak Djokovic and fans will be welcome.

The Adria Tour will be held until July 5 in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia.

On the tournament’s first stop, tomorrow and Sunday, the Serbian star will be joined by world No 3 Dominic Thiem.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, ranked seventh and 19th in the world respectively, are also set to take part.

The Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association Tours have been suspended since March due to the pandemic and will not resume at least until the end of July.

The French Open was postponed until September and Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II.

The four tennis stars will play under regulations that allow up to 1,000 people to attend open-air sports events, which were introduced in Serbia on Monday.

The matches will be played at the Novak Tennis Centre, financed by Djokovic’s family, with a view of the Danube River.

Tickets were sold out in seven minutes after being put on sale online on May 27.

The event will be broadcast live in more than 100 countries, its director Djordje Djokovic, Novak’s younger brother, said.

“Every spectator will get a mask at the entrance, disinfectants will be placed throughout the complex,” Djordje said.

Also, the entire centre will be disinfected after every match.

“We are professionals in this sport and we want to play,” said the 33-year-old Djokovic.

However, two tennis giants — Roger Federer, out for the rest of the year following knee surgery, and Rafael Nadal, who recently resumed training — will be absent.

Both Djokovic and Thiem were training during the lockdown.

“I had a tennis court so I could train every day,” said Djokovic referring to his period of confinement in Spain, where he was staying with his family at a home in Marbella.

After the Serbian capital, the tournament will move to Zadar, on Croatia’s Adriatic coast, where Djokovic and his peers will be

joined by two Croatian tennis stars — former US Open champion Marin Cilic and Borna Coric.

After Montenegro, the event will end on July 5 with an exhibition match between Bosnian No 1 Damir Dzumhur and Djokovic.

“In Sarajevo and Bosnia, people really love Djokovic…it will be an exceptional event for them, an ideal opportunity to see Novak up close,” world No 107 Dzumhur said.

All the matches will be played on clay.

The money raised will be donated to various regional charities.

Balkan countries coped with the coronavirus pandemic with relative success.

The region of some 22 million people registered fewer than 24,000 infections and around 700 deaths. — AFP