Haunting images emerge as Australian Open continues in lockdown

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Melbourne Park, pictured here on day six of the Australian Open.
Play continued at the Australian Open on Saturday despite Victoria going into lockdown. Image: Getty

There was a very different feel around Melbourne Park on Saturday as the Australian Open continued on the first day of Victoria's five-day lockdown.

Victoria went back into lockdown at 11.59pm on Friday night, sparking bizarre scenes during Novak Djokovic's match as fans were forced to leave Rod Laver Arena.

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And there were equally bizarre scenes on Saturday as matches continued without spectators.

The Melbourne Park grounds were completely deserted aside from security staff and officials, while grandstands were completely devoid of fans.

Rod Laver Arena, pictured here during day six of the 2021 Australian Open.
A general view outside Rod Laver Arena during day six of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
The Melbourne Park grounds, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Fans are locked out of the Australian Open from Saturday until Wednesday. (Photo by Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images)

Speaking on Saturday morning, tournament director Craig Tiley said he expected fans back on Thursday when the lockdown is supposed to finish.

“I fully expect to say that we can have crowds back. How many is yet to be determined,” he told Channel Nine.

“We are providing refunds for the next five days and we are holding everything for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and we were almost at sellouts in that period.”

Tiley said it was unfortunate fans had to be kicked out of Rod Laver Arena on Friday night, but the situation was unavoidable.

“The clock went to 11:30 and it went from an unbelievable atmosphere to complete dead,” he said.

One of the locked entrances at Melbourne Park, pictured here on Saturday.
One of the locked entrances at Melbourne Park on Saturday. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

“Some didn’t want to go. It took us seven minutes.

“We first tried with the normal PA system at 11 and that didn’t work and you could hear the booing. 

"Just before 11:30 the umpire said that they had to leave the stadium. That was the condition of everyone needing to go into lockdown from 12:00. 

"We started at 11:30 and it takes that long it get everyone out and cabs.”

Tiley said he expected players would be able to adapt to playing in empty arenas.

“They have been playing in this bubble for the last 12 months," he said.

(There was) excitement about coming to Australia for the first time fans in the stadium and they have loved the last five days with so many positive comments.

“When I told the playing group on Zoom call yesterday there was no negative reaction. It was normal for them because they have been doing it all year.”

Karolina Muchova, pictured here playing in front of an empty crowd at the Australian Open.
Karolina Muchova and Karolina Pliskova play in front of an empty crowd at the Australian Open. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Taylor Fritz hits out at 'ridiculous' situation

However American player Taylor Fritz, who was battling Djokovic when the match was stopped to allow fans to leave, wasn't impressed by the situation.

The 23-year-old was on his way back to levelling his clash with an injured Djokovic when the umpire told the players to leave the court midway through the fourth set while fans made their way to the exits.

"I mean, to be honest, like, completely honest, it's absolutely ridiculous that at a grand slam match we're asked to leave the court for 10 minutes in the middle of the match, in the middle of the fourth set," he told reporters.

"I understand the fact that Victoria is going back into lockdown and people have to go. 

"If that's the case, then we shouldn't have played tonight if we weren't going to finish the match on time."

Fritz said the fans leaving harmed his hopes of a shock win.

"I guess not having fans there did, I feel, hurt me because they were kind of pushing for me," the American said. 

"But, you know, we still came back and I won the set.

"It's not like it made that big of a deal. I just think it's not really proper conditions to play a third round of a slam."

with AAP

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