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Australian Open crowds at 10% capacity would be a boon, says Djokovic

Tennis - ATP Finals - The O2, London, Britain - November 20, 2020 Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates during his group stage match against Germany's Alexander Zverev REUTERS/Toby Melville

(Reuters) - World number one Novak Djokovic said he hopes fans will be allowed to turn up in numbers for the Australian Open in January even though spectators are still barred from most stadiums amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ever since the tour resumed after the COVID-19 stoppage, the majority of events have been played in empty stadiums, with a select few allowing fans in few numbers to attend with social distancing protocols in place to curb the spread of the virus.

“If Australia happens, I’m hearing that we are going to have at least 50% of the capacity of the stadium. That’s a lot, I think even 10% would be huge for us at this stage,” Djokovic said after moving into the semis of the ATP Finals in London.

“Just hearing the applause and hearing the fans and sensing their energy and their emotion and their kind of excitement for being there and cheering you on on the court, that’s something that I think we’re all missing.”

Rod Laver Arena is the biggest at Melbourne Park with a maximum capacity of 15,000 followed by Melbourne Arena (9,646) and Margaret Court Arena (7,500).

Defending champion Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open a record eight times, said he hoped the feeling of “walking into an empty stadium” would be temporary but was glad they were able to resume the season this year despite the pandemic.

“Strange is probably the right word to describe the season, but nevertheless I still feel like we played a lot of tournaments considering we had a six-months gap in the middle of the season,” he added.

“We still managed to play three out of four Grand Slams and the ATP Finals and some big Masters 1000 events like Cincinnati and Rome.”

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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