Novak Djokovic is bringing his Adria Tour to a Croatian seaside town, with the Serb making no apologies for last weekend’s flying start in Belgrade.

The COVID-19 event which was won by Dominic Thiem, drew criticism for its full-house crowds and scarcity of social distancing or face masks.

But the world No. 1 continued his defence of the event, citing differences in virus outcomes in his Baltic nation versus Western Europe and the US.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner who has yet to decide if he will risking playing the US open from August 31 in the former virus hotspot of New York, told Eurosport:

“I know there has been some criticism, especially from the West,” he said. 

“Why do we have viewers there? Why is there no social distancing? Why is this kind of event taking place while there is a serious pandemic in the West?

“It’s not easy to explain to people that the situation in the United States or Great Britain is completely different from that in Serbia or the surrounding countries.”

He said his tournament followed explicit advice from the Serbian government, though the stop at the end of the month in Montenegro had to be called off due to government health pressure.

“We followed the rules and measures laid down by the government and public health institutions from day one. We didn’t cross the line. We went through all these processes, and the overall result was fantastic.”

Djokovic is now in the Croatian port of Zadar as the second leg of the tour got  underway with a Friday exhibition,

“I am grateful to everyone who was involved in the organisation. It normally takes at least five or six months to set up an event like this. We did it in three or four weeks,” Djokovic added.

“It’s a huge success. It’s important that we move forward wherever we can to allow players to play, make money, and make a living from their sport at regional, continental, or intercontinental level as soon as possible.” 

The Croatian stop Saturday and Sunday will be headlined by Djokovic and German Alexander Zverev, with entries from Broatians Marin Cilic and Borna Coric. There will also be an appearance by Croatian WTA player Donna Vekic in an exhibition match.