Sports around the world have largely taken place without spectators in recent months, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, this rule had been enforced in tennis as well, with several prominent hosting countries like the USA, France, and Italy struggling to contain the spread of the virus.
However, almost a month after the resumption of the tour, it appears that fans will get to visit Italian tennis arenas once again. And this news has come as music to the ears of Novak Djokovic, who is currently competing at the Rome Masters.
After his third-round win over Filip Krajinovic, Novak Djokovic was informed that the Italian government has decided to allow spectators at the tournament - albeit in limited numbers. This new rule will be in place for the semifinals of the Rome Masters, which is just a win away for Djokovic.
It is better to play in front of 1,000 people than in front of empty stands: Novak Djokovic
Spectators have always been an integral part of tennis. A sport with just two players on the field, tennis often resembles a gladiator battle as thousands of spectators cheer for their favorite. Players ride on the vocal support from their fans to win tight points or stage comebacks, and Novak Djokovic has been a beneficiary of that as well.
But the lack of fans since the resumption of the tour has made for a completely different picture. The players have felt a certain hollowness in the atmosphere, and Novak Djokovic is happy that the Italian government has agreed to bring back fans to the stadiums.
Even though the figure is initially small - 1,000 - the Serb doesn’t mind that. For him, something is better than nothing.
“Obviously I'm happy, I don't really dare to believe it because things are constantly changing,” Djokovic said. “It's great. It is certain that it is better to play in front of 1000 people than in front of empty stands."
Novak Djokovic went on to say that players often draw a great deal of inspiration from their supporters. For someone who has never enjoyed the majority of the crowd support while facing Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, this comes as a rather surprising statement.
"Fans are part of our career and part of our sports. We all play for them too," Djokovic said. "I am happy that this is happening. Besides, I would really like that at the same time we could play on the center court because it is really better than the others."
Novak Djokovic is one win away from being cheered on by the fans again, and plays Dominik Koepfer in the quarterfinals on Saturday.