Novak Djokovic is set to hold the Serbia Open tournament less than a year after the event ended in chaos during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last year, Djokovic helped host the Adria Tour during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was held in front of thousands of fans with no social distancing.
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Hosting the tournament with good intentions, the Adria Tour ended in chaos after Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki all tested positive, as did the wives of Djokovic and Troicki.
Dimitrov was one player who detailed how he struggled with his health and was nowhere near ready to compete at the professional level after the virus.
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.
Tournament to have tighter Covid-19 protocols
This year's tournament will be staged with no fans and follow 'strict protocols' detailed by the ATP, Djokovic's younger brother told N1 TV channel.
"Masks will be mandatory, inside and outside. We want to respect the rules in order to protect the players," Djordje said.
Players competing at the tournament will be housed in 'controlled spaces' to make sure they are isolating between games.
Djokovic came under heavy scrutiny last year as images emerged of the lack of social distancing during the tournament.
Then World No.1 later claimed the criticism had become a ‘witch-hunt’.
Players such as Dominic Thiem defended the Serbian and Thiem has once again jumped in to defend the World No.1.
"It was unfair to him because he didn't break any law and he didn't force us," Thiem told CNN Sport after the tournament.
"It was our own decision. The whole event was for a very good cause as well."
But Thiem said the lack of social-distancing that took place was due to player excitement, which was a ‘mistake’.
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