Novak Djokovic has flouted lockdown rules once again as he held a celebration on the streets of Belgrade on Monday, after he became the sole-holder for the most weeks as men’s world No 1.
The 33-year-old Serb overtook Roger Federer in the standings, having been top of the ATP men’s singles rankings for a combined 311 weeks in five different stints.
Hundreds of fans lined the streets of the Serbian capital in a celebration of Djokovic’s career and jubilant supporters chanted ‘Nole, Nole’, without any social distancing taking place despite the Covid pandemic.
Djokovic was in the spotlight last year for his controversial Adria Tour which took place without social distancing, with videos of himself and other players partying in a nightclub widely criticised, especially after the Serb himself tested positive for coronavirus.
Novak Djokovic held a mass celebration in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Monday evening
The 33-year-old has now spent an all-time men’s record of 311 weeks as world number one (pictured with his father Srdjan)
Djokovic addresses fans who gathered in their hundreds with no social distancing taking place
Djokovic (left centre) and fellow tennis stars partied in a Belgrade nightclub in June 2020, with some of the players taking their shirts off during the riotous evening
COVID-19 infections are increasing in Serbia with 3,828 new infections reported on average each day – that is 53 per cent of the peak which is the highest daily average reported on December 4, according to Reuters.
The country was in a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown over the weekend as a result of the latest figures and there is still rules in place on social distance, with indoor and outdoor gatherings limited to five people.
There have been 489,530 infections and 4,579 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.
Djokovic, with his family alongside, watched on as fireworks took place in front of their restaurant in Belgrade.
Main buildings downtown in the Serbian capital were lit with his portrait, including a light show displaying the best moments of his career.
The 33-year-old addressed the crowd, saying: ‘Today is a special day for myself, my family as well as Serbia.
‘Thank you for the success which is not only mine but of the whole nation.’
The world number one, who won his 18th Grand Slam at the Australian Open last month, has been involved in controversy aplenty in the past 12 months.
Djokovic hosted a Facebook Live event back in April and revealed he is against having vaccinations.
‘Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,’ Djokovic said.
‘But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.
Djokovic is also looking to chase down Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam record
Major buildings in Belgrade were lit up with projections of Djokovic and his career highlights
‘I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.
‘Hypothetically, if the season was to resume in July, August or September, though unlikely, I understand that a vaccine will become a requirement straight after we are out of strict quarantine and there is no vaccine yet.’
Djokovic’s wife Jelena also holds what many would consider unconventional views.
Djokovic pictured alongside his wife Jelena, who has previously had a ‘false information’ badge attached to one of her Instagram posts after sharing a clip that suggested the spread of coronavirus is linked to 5G technology
She had a ‘false information’ label slapped on one of her Instagram posts last year after she shared a video promoting the belief that coronavirus could be spread via 5G technology.
But it was the Adria Tour fiasco which really put the Serb under the microscope, with Djokovic issuing an apology for his conduct and after contracting the virus.
The world No 1, who organised the event where social distancing was widely ignored, softened an earlier statement in which he had shown little remorse for what transpired.
Djokovic (left centre) was joined by the likes of Alex Zverev and Dominic Thiem following the completion of the Adria Tour event
Big crowds attended the Adria Tour in June 2020 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
‘I am so deeply sorry our tournament has caused harm,’ said Djokovic back in June. ‘Everything the organisers and I did the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions.
‘We believed that the tournament met all health protocols and the health of our region seemed in good condition to finally unite people for philanthropic reasons.
‘We were wrong and it was too soon. I can’t express how sorry I am for this and every case of infection.’
Among the images which emerged from the events in Serbia and Croatia were those of him and other players dancing half-naked together in a Belgrade nightclub.
He was also disqualified from the US Open in September after hitting a ball inadvertently at a line-judge.
Then, after claiming an eighth title at the Australian Open in Melbourne, rowdy fans were labelled a ‘disgrace’ after booing at the mention of a ‘Covid vaccine’ during the trophy presentation.
Tennis Australia executive Jayne Hrdlicka took to the podium to commend the hundred of players who battled it out in the Grand Slam, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
But her speech was rudely interrupted by a large section of the crowd, who jeered when she said the advent of the jab was a sign the tough times were drawing to an end.
‘It’s been a time of deep loss and extraordinary sacrifice for everyone. With vaccinations on the way, rolling out in many countries around the world, it’s now a time for optimism and hope for the future,’ she said.
The boos resounded throughout the stadium, continuing again when she mentioned the effort the Victorian Government had put in to host this year’s event.
Hrdlicka pressed on, at times having to stop to wait for the crowd to settle, before offering a thinly-veiled swipe at the end.
‘You are a very opinionated group of people, but whether you’re at home or here tonight, we are really thankful that you’re here. We look forward to seeing you next year,’ she finished her speech.
Tennis Australia executive Jayne Hrdlicka (pictured) was booed during her speech after mentioning the advent of the Covid-19 vaccine and the Victorian Government
The ATP rankings date to 1973 and Djokovic first topped them in July 2011 after he won his first Wimbledon title – he is currently in his fifth stint at the top.
Djokovic’s next target will be to chase down Federer and Rafael Nadal in the all-time majors list, with the Swiss and Spaniard two ahead on 20 ahead of the next Grand Slam, the French Open, this spring.
The Serb is set to be in action next at the Miami Masters at the end of the month, while Federer returns to action after 14 months out this week in Qatar.