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Novak Djokovic defends packed stands at tennis event in Serbia

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There was no social distancing and few among the thousands of fans wore face masks — and Novak Djokovic approved.

The fans filled the makeshift stands on Friday at Djokovic’s Belgrade tennis club on the banks of the Danube River for the opening day of his charity tennis tour organized by him and his family. Other top players in attendance included Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov and Jelena Jankovic.

The Serbian government recently lifted lockdown restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic, only recommending people stay one metre apart. On Wednesday, there was a 20,000-strong crowd for a soccer cup semifinal in Belgrade.

At the tennis, Djokovic defended the freedoms of the crowd.

“We have different circumstances and measures so it’s very difficult to think of international standards,” he said before the ceremonial opening of his Adria Tour.

Going with the flow
He said Serbia has “better numbers” compared to other countries regarding coronavirus infections. Serbia has registered more than 12,000 COVID-19 cases and 252 deaths, although the numbers have been rising again since the government lifted most of the lockdowns and restrictions last month.

“You can also criticize us and say this is maybe dangerous but it’s not up to me to make the calls about what is right or wrong for health,” Djokovic said. “We are doing what the Serbian government is telling us and hopefully we soon will get back on tour collectively.

“Of course, lives have been lost and that’s horrible to see, in the region and worldwide. But life goes on, and we as athletes are looking forward to competing.”

But this week, the top-ranked Djokovic said he was thinking of skipping the U.S. Open — if it is played — because he described precautions put on players as “extreme” and not “sustainable.”

These included a 14-day quarantine for foreign players; a limit of one person per competitor at matches; limited ability to move around New York; and mandatory lodging near the tournament site in Queens.

Djokovic’s Adria Tour is scheduled to move on to neighbouring Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Rafa Nadal and I have had our differences, but he’s an absolute champion,’ says Nick Kyrgios

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Nick Kyrgios admits that he and Rafa Nadal have ‘had their differences’ over the years but he can’t help but admire his achievements.

Nadal won his 20th Grand Slam crown at Roland Garros earlier this month to draw level with Roger Federer in the history books.

Kyrgios has a bit of a storied past when it comes to spats with Nadal, who he once branded ‘super salty’ whilst accusing him of being a bad loser.

Even he, though, can’t deny the Spaniard has achieved something special.

“I wasn’t surprised when I saw Rafa Nadal pretty much easing his way through the draw at the French Open,” Kyrgios told Courtside Huddle.

“That’s his backyard, he loves playing there and he has only lost two matches in his entire career.

“Honestly, in my opinion I don’t think we are going to see anything like that ever again.

“Somebody so dominant on a surface he’s right there with the greatest of all time. You can argue that he is the greatest.’

“You look at Federer, he’s the most dominant player of all time, but in this era it’s actually Rafa. It’s a debate you can have.”

“We had our differences when we played each other. We’re fiery, we’re competitors and are going to go after each other.

“But at the same time I am not going to take anything away from him . He’s an absolute champion and 20 Grand Slam is ridiculous and I don’t think we are ever going to see that again.”

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