Novak Djokovic will have to do without the support of rowdy and raucous Serb fans as he starts for his nation in the Davis Cup Finals from Friday in Innsbruck.
Austria has tightened the social screws as the country fights another surge of COVID, with no fans allowed to watch the competition as the international teams event returns for the first time since 2019.
Serbia is playing in what might be called the “virus” group, with fellow members Austria and Germany hit hard by another winter wave of the pandemic.
Djokovic will be hoping to help make amends after his country stalled at the quarter-final stage two years ago.
“We are very sad because the energy that the fans give in an event like this is fundamental,” the No. 1 said in the Wednesday run-up.
“There was a great Serbian community residing in Austria that was going to come to see us, but it is inspiring to represent my country, even in these conditions.
“This is one of the most important weeks for me of the entire season.”
Djokovic has changed his opinion of the bastardised Davis format, in which group play is split among Innsbruck, Turin and Madrid, where the championship match will be played before moving to Abu Dhabi in 2022.
“At first I was against it, I did not like that everything was played in the same place. But I really like that there are three different venues this year.
“I would add another three venues, so that each group would be played in a different place and more fans could watch tennis live.
“In addition, I would change the venues every two years because I think it would do a lot of good to promote our sport.”