Spain's Rafael Nadal in action at the Monte Carlo Masters without fans
Spain's Rafael Nadal in action at the Monte Carlo Masters without fans Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Empty stands has been the new normal for tennis since last year due to COVID-19 restrictions but top men’s players such as Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic said they still find it difficult to maintain their intensity during matches in the absence of fans.

The professional circuit was shut down for several months last year before tournament organisers set up ‘biosecure bubbles’ for players and support staff while keeping fans away from stadiums.

Barring the swing in Australia in February, tournaments continue to be played in front of a handful of fans at most.

Nadal lost some of his intensity during Wednesday’s 6-1, 6-2 win over Argentine Delbonis at the Monte Carlo Masters and the Spaniard was in no doubt the absence of fans took something away from the game.

“It’s difficult to keep going sometimes with the same intensity without the crowd,” the 20-times Grand Slam champion told reporters. “The crowd helps you to keep going. You want to show that you are in good shape. It’s true, personally I miss the crowd. I can’t lie about that. I enjoy much more playing in front of a good crowd than without.”

World No. 1 Djokovic produced a high-level performance to beat Italian 19-year-old Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-2 at the ATP Masters 1000 event but he too said he missed the energy generated by spectators.