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US Open without fans an 'advantage' against Opelka, says Goffin

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some players at the U.S. Open have bemoaned the lack of fans at locked-down Flushing Meadows but Belgium’s David Goffin says the empty stands were to his advantage against home hope Reilly Opelka on Monday.

Seventh seed Goffin beat Opelka 7-6(2) 3-6 6-1 6-4 at Court 17 where a healthy crowd of home fans would normally be right behind the towering American.

The novel coronavirus pandemic means the U.S. Open is taking place without spectators, with players living in a protective bubble under strict health and safety guidelines.

“I think to play in an empty stadium today was more advantage for me,” the straight-talking Belgian told reporters.

“Especially against him I think it was an advantage .... When you feel the pressure of the crowd on your shoulder, everybody’s behind Reilly, it would have been tougher, I think, today.”

No fans in the U.S. Open bubble also gives players more scope to flit between courts as they please and be proper spectators at matches they might usually only monitor on screens.

With the day off on Tuesday, Goffin said he could watch compatriot Kim Clijsters’s return to Grand Slam tennis when the 37-year-old wildcard and three-times U.S. Open champion plays her opener against Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova.

“It’s so nice to have the opportunity to see all the matches, to walk between the courts and watch when it’s important moment on a match or when it’s an opponent that you want to see live,” said Goffin, who next plays unseeded South African Lloyd Harris.

“Most of the time you cannot go out, otherwise you are in the fans and you cannot walk between the matches. It’s tough.

“There it’s quite nice. You have a suite, so I can watch the match on centre court, when you have lunch, watch all the

players.

“(Clijsters) could be, for example, a match that I could watch tomorrow live ... Could be nice.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutheford

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