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22 Jul, 2020 11:10

'He didn't force us': Tennis ace Thiem DEFENDS Djokovic but admits coronavirus-hit stars 'kind of FORGOT' distancing at tournament

'He didn't force us': Tennis ace Thiem DEFENDS Djokovic but admits coronavirus-hit stars 'kind of FORGOT' distancing at tournament

World number three Dominic Thiem has said Novak Djokovic and the players at his controversial Adria Tour matches in Serbia and Croatia "broke no law", although he conceded that they forgot to observe precautions around COVID-19.

Thiem was one of the few stars not to join world number one Djokovic in testing positive for COVID-19 after the tournament, which drew criticism when players were seen hugging each other and children, posing for photos and even visiting a nightclub at a time when much of the world was observing social distancing guidelines.

Djokovic has since issued a statement apologizing for the fiasco, leading the likes of outspoken Australian Nick Kyrgios to call the players "irresponsible" and "stupid" after seeing participants including Serbian Viktor Troicki and Croatian Borna Coric test positive.

"It was obviously a mistake from everybody but it's a long time ago now, really," Thiem told CNN. "Everybody regrets it, of course, but I think, at the same time, it's fine now.

Also on rt.com 'This takes the cake': Nick Kyrgios goes in on Novak Djokovic after Covid-19 diagnosis & tour partying

"Everybody who got positive there is healthy again, which is a very good sign as well. 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.

"It was unfair to Djokovic because he didn't break any law and he didn't force us. He 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."

Djokovic had been pictured meeting some of the players at the airport in Belgrade and walking through the streets with them ahead of the tournament, earning consternation from experts and fans who felt that they were ignoring safety concerns around the highly infectious, potentially deadly virus.

Thiem's manager, Herwig Straka, last month called the tournament "dumb" for putting on a "publicity show" for Djokovic.

Also on rt.com ‘It’s a WITCH HUNT’: World no. 1 Novak Djokovic blasts back at criticism over Adria Tour coronavirus fiasco

"Everyone knows it was dumb," he told Der Standard. "No-one needs a public apology. The only one who should apologize is Djokovic. He staged the whole thing. The others were only there. They didn’t kill anyone.

"You have to assign Djokovic the main share of the blame. The others participated, but he was very encouraging."

Thiem has since won a tournament in Berlin that adhered to social distancing and is now looking ahead to the US Open at the end of August, which is still scheduled to go ahead despite the huge number of infections still being recorded in the US.

"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, despite Kyrgios calling the decision not to postpone the tournament "selfish".

"It's tough to imagine 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."

Also on rt.com 'She criticized Djokovic, but couldn’t stay in her room': US player DUMPED from World Team Tennis for violating COVID-19 protocol