Novak Djokovic got his first taste on Wednesday of the new crowd-free reality of COVID-era tennis, with the world No. 1 determined to focus on his tennis at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The world No. 1 played his last match, the Australian Open final, in front of modest thousands of fans in Melbourne – but that kind of crowd from two months ago in a locked-down country is nowhere to be seen this spring in Europe.
The deafening silence is most easily seen at the spectacular Country Club venue overlooking the Mediterranean.
But after defeating Italian young gun Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-3 in Wednesday’s second-round opener, top seed Djokovic is working on adjusting to the strange conditions.
“Playing in front of no crowds and empty stadiums is something that obviously is strange, and hopefully just a temporary thing,” he said.
“We need crowds back on the stands. I’m sure that other sports, other performance people and athletes and entertainers, probably share the same opinion.
“The crowd gives us so much energy; it adds to the motivation.
“But I try to take the positive side of it. We have this calm and kind of serenity on the stands and on the court.”
The player who leans towards the spiritual added: “It just allows you to maybe focus on yourself a bit more, not have as many distractions.
“I try to focus on those positives and be optimistic and build my form.”
Djokovic will have an accelerated run-up to the French Open, now due to start a week late on May 30 due to a pandemic postponement.
“I just started my clay court campaign, so it’s a long way to Paris.
Hopefully I’ll be able to play consistently well and stay healthy. The French is where I want to peak.”
Djokovic analysed his victory over the 19-year-old Sinner:
“I think ‘solid’ is a good word to describe it. Obviously I know I can always do better. I’m working towards playing even on a higher level than I did today.
“Sinner is in form, striking the ball very well. I knew it was going to be a challenge. I walked into the court with the right intensity, right focus.”
Main photo:- The spectacular but crowd free Monaco Country club – by Corinne Dubreuil/FFT