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Players are Struggling, I Consider Myself Responsible: Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic, who was active in the campaign by the WTA and the ATP to raise funds for the welfare of the lower-ranked players under lockdown, has also pitched an exhibition fundraising tournament to the Serbian Tennis Federation.
Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic has been in the forefront to organise means to support lower ranked players during lockdown

Australian Open holder Novak Djokovic confirmed there would be other big names besides himself at the proposed exhibition tournament scheduled from June 13 to July 5.

Tennis has remained under lockdown for over two months now and the lower-ranked players are continuing to suffer, staring at an uncertain future. Novak Djokovic indicated he feels responsible for not being able to do enough to help the upcoming players.

“We have earned enough money to live comfortable lives. We are lucky and grateful as well to have the life that we have but 95% of tennis players are struggling,” Djokovic said in an interview with former player Gustavo Kuerten.

“Especially the ones that are lower-ranked. They don’t have the opportunity to compete, and earn money. For a lot of those players, it’s a kind of a survival problem in terms of continuing to play professional tennis or not,” he added.

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The ATP and the WTA recently raised over $6 million to help the lower-ranked players and Djokovic was in the forefront of that campaign. The 33-year-old has also pitched an exhibition event to the Serbian Tennis Federation in order to raise more.

“This is the reality now. So I did spend a lot of time in these last two months to help the Serbian Tennis Federation to set up a tour. I also spent a lot of time talking with the ATP to understand the best ways to help the lower-ranked players,” he added.

“Unlike many other players, I was able to train almost every day because we resided in a house with a tennis court,” Djokovic said while addressing a news conference at his tennis complex in downtown Belgrade.

“I refrained from posting clips on social networks because I didn’t want to infuriate other players. I am fit and in good shape, so I am looking forward to the Adria Tour, which I am organising.”

Australian Open holder Djokovic confirmed that there would be other big names besides himself at the tournament that is scheduled from June 13 to July 5. 

The first phase of the tournament will take place on red clay in Belgrade (at Djokovic’s complex) from June 13 -14, and the second in Croatia from June 20-21.

Montenegro and Bosnia are likely to hold the last phases of the tournament but Djokovic said the infrastructure is still not ready yet.

“Bosnia and Montenegro are still not 100% certain as the hosts of the final two legs because we haven’t had enough time to prepare the infrastructure, but we are very nearly there. As for the three big names coming over, they will all play in the opening leg in Belgrade. Zverev might play in Croatia too while Dimitrov could appear in Croatia and in Montenegro.” he said.

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All four tournaments will have eight players competing in two pools of four in a round-robin clash. The winner of each of the pools will head to the final.

With the livelihoods of lower-ranked players and broadcasting deals on the line, the governing bodies are looking at the idea of playing behind closed doors. Earlier this month, the French Tennis Federation said it was holding talks with the ATP, WTA, and the ITF so that they could work on a revised calendar for the year.

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