Grigor Dimitrov, the 19th-ranked men’s tennis player in the world, announced Sunday on Instagram that he had tested positive for COVID-19, setting off a chain of events that led to the cancellation of an exhibition tournament where he had competed as recently as Saturday.
Dimitrov’s announcement came about an hour before No. 1 Novak Djokovic was scheduled to play the so-called “Adria Tour” final against Andrey Rublev in Croatia. The match was called off, as Dimitrov had been in close contact with Djokovic and other players at the event.
Though Dimitrov played just one match, losing to Borna Coric on Saturday before flying back to his home in Monaco, he had been photographed at the event playing pickup basketball against Djokovic and hugging other notable players such as former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic and No. 7 Alexander Zverev.
“I want to make sure anyone who has been in contact with me during these past days gets tested and takes the necessary precautions,” Dimitrov wrote on Instagram. “I am so sorry for any harm I might have caused. I am back home now and recovering.”
Dimitrov, who had been in the United States since the lockdowns began in March, traveled to Europe last week to play the first week of the Adria Tour, where big crowds gathered to watch the matches in Belgrade, Serbia.
In fact, the entire idea of social distancing seemed to be out the window at the Adria Tour, which has been organized by Djokovic and his team, as players followed no safety protocols on the court and posted frequently on social media about going out at night.
Dimitrov’s positive test underscores both the threat posed by the coronavirus and the significance of the safety protocols put in place by the United States Tennis Association as it attempts to host the U.S. Open without fans beginning in August. Just last week, the USTA laid out its plan to build something of a bubble with frequent testing and centralized services for players at a hotel outside of Manhattan.
With some top players like Djokovic publicly expressing doubts about the initial plan floated for the U.S. Open — which would have included restrictions on movement and numbers of people in a player’s entourage — the USTA made some concessions, including allowing players to stay at a high-end rental property off site if they chose.
It’s unclear whether Djokovic and others like Rafael Nadal will travel to the U.S. or stay in Europe and prepare for a modified fall clay court season including the French Open.