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Sport

1,000 fans at Italian Open better than none, says Djokovic

ROME (Reuters) - World number one Novak Djokovic on Friday welcomed the Italian government’s decision to allow up to 1,000 spectators for the final two days of the Italian Open in Rome.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - ATP Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - September 16, 2020 Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during his second round match against Italy's Salvatore Caruso Pool via REUTERS/Riccardo Antimiani

Professional sports events in Italy have been played without fans since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic but sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora said fans would be allowed to attend the closing stages of the tournament on Sunday and Monday.

Apart from the tennis masters, two Serie A matches this weekend and the Formula One race at Imola in November are also set to allow up to 1,000 spectators.

“I hope that’s true. If we are going to have 1,000 people, it’s better than no people,” Djokovic told reporters after he advanced to the quarter-finals with a 7-6(7) 6-3 victory over fellow Serb Filip Krajinovic.

“We all miss the fans, and part of our professional careers in sport is playing in front of them and for them as well. So I’m really glad that that’s going to happen.”

Djokovic also said he hoped the matches would be played on centre court as he preferred the surface on the main court at the Foro Italico.

“I heard also they are considering to use Pietrangeli or NextGen court for semi-finals and finals,” he added.

“I hope it’s not the case, because the quality of the clay and quality of the centre court is, in my opinion, much better than the other courts.”

Djokovic will take on German Dominik Koepfer, who ended Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti’s dream run with a 6-4 6-0 win. Musetti, 18, had beaten Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori in the first two rounds.

Second seed Rafa Nadal, seeking his 10th title in Rome, also advanced with a 6-1 6-3 victory over Dusan Lajovic to set up a clash with Argentine Diego Schwartzman.

In the women’s field, top seeds Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova moved into the quarter-finals with straight sets victories while Yulia Putintseva beat Kazakh compatriot Elena Rybakina 4-6 7-6(3) 6-2.

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis

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