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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Novak Djokovic

"When I see the aftermath of things, I do tend to ask myself if I should just sit back and enjoy my benefits instead of paying attention to other people's struggles," Novak Djokovic said in a statement today.

Photo credit: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images/ATP Cup Facebook

Novak Djokovic has a message for his critics: you're misinterpreting my genuine concern for ungracious selfishness.

The world No. 1 took to twitter to clarify his recent requests to Australian Open CEO Craig Tiley—and rebut some scathing criticism from some fellow players, media and fans.

More: Djokovic's Efforts To Ease Restrictions Shot Down

Djokovic said his requests on behalf of players confined to a 14-day hard-quarantine in their Melbourne hotel room come from a place of pure compassion for his colleagues and have been twisted into entitled demands from a multi-millionaire superstar.

The eight-time Australian Open champion suggested the backlash he's received has caused him to ponder if he should "just sit back and enjoy my benefits instead of paying attention to other people's struggles."

"My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful," Djokovic said in a statement. "This couldn't be farther from the truth.

"I genuinely care about my fellow players and I also understand very well how the world is run and who gets bigger and better and why...Not every act is taken at its face value and at times when I see the aftermath of things, I do tend to ask myself if I should just sit back and enjoy my benefits instead of paying attention to other people's struggles."

The 17-time Grand Slam champion took some shots from the media and social media after some of his requests on behalf of those hard quarantine players became public.

Former Australian Davis Cup player Sam Groth slammed the world No. 1 for a "selfish political move" in a column he wrote.

Long-time Djokovic nemesis Nick Kyrgios was even more blunt branding Djokovic "a tool."

Some suggested Djokovic simply didn't read the room and fully understand sacrifices thousands of Australian citizens have made during hard lockdowns as the nation has fought to subdue the Coronavirus pandemic. Critics say Djokovic, whose own Adria Tour was marred by COVID-19 outbreaks among stars that eventually forced the Tour's cancellation last summer, is not exactly an authority on safety protocol during a pandemic.

Supporters say Djokovic is brave and unselfish for standing up and speaking up on behalf of the 72 players serving hard quarantine in Melbourne, while he and fellow superstars Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Simona Halep enjoy much more freedom, training time and most importantly on-court practice time in a softer bubble in Adelaide. 

The former president of the ATP Player Council and a founder of the PTPA, Djokovic asserts he's simply concerned about the mental and physical health of his colleagues, listened to their concerns and tried to voice their views to Tiley.

"Things in the media escalated and there was a general impression that the players (including myself) are ungrateful, weak and selfish because of their unpleasant feelings in quarantine," Djokovic said. "I am very sorry that it has come to that because I do know how grateful many are. We all came to Australia to compete. Not being able to train and prepare before the tournament starts is really not easy. None of us ever questioned 14 days of quarantine despite what is being said by media outlets.

"I am very much looking forward to playing in front of the people and joining the tennis frenzy and energy of the city that has always carried me towards many victories."

To be fair to Djokovic, AO CEO Tiley has since said the tournament will try to provide exercise equipment, including stationary bikes, to players in hard quarantine and conceded those players face a competitive disadvantage for the Australian Open, which starts on February 8th.

Tiley also said the tournament will start as scheduled and will not shorten men's matches to best-of-three sets for opening week as some had suggested.

Tennis Express

With Australian Open first ball 19 days away, the quarantine controversy has drawn major media coverage in Australia as there's no tennis going on now.

Djokovic's open letter is an attempt to clear the air, explain his version of events and turn the focus back to tennis.

On January 29th, the stars in the Adelaide bubble are scheduled to play a charity exhibition, which will hopefully help raise funds to fight the pandemic and serve as a show of player unity ahead of the 2021 AO.


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