'Wild scenes': Uproar as entire crowd kicked out of Australian Open

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Fans, pictured here being forced to leave Novak Djokovic's match at the Australian Open.
Fans were forced to leave Novak Djokovic's match at the Australian Open at 11.30pm. Image: AAP/Getty

There were extraordinary scenes at the Australian Open on Friday night when fans were evicted from Rod Laver Arena at 11.30pm due to Victoria's snap lockdown.

Victoria went back into a five-day lockdown from 11.59pm on Friday night, with the Australian Open set to continue without spectators.

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Fans were still allowed into Melbourne Park on Friday, however they were forced to leave at 11.30pm in order to be home by lockdown.

That sparked bizarre scenes during Novak Djokovic's clash with Taylor Fritz when play was stopped so the arena could be emptied of spectators.

The match was stopped for about 10 minutes while Fritz was mounting an epic comeback against Djokovic in the fourth set.

And the American young gun wasn't too pleased with the decision.

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 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."

Australian Open staff and security, pictured here asking fans to leave.
Australian Open staff and security ask fans to leave. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The boisterous atmosphere had riled Djokovic at times but he recovered to win in five sets 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 and stay on course for a record-extending ninth Australian Open title.

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."

The stands, pictured here empty during Novak Djokovic's clash with Taylor Fritz.
The stands were emptied during Novak Djokovic's clash with Taylor Fritz. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

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The clock had hit 12.20am by the time Djokovic completed the marathon victory.

"With the bad news today that we got, everybody knew that midnight is going to be the deadline where we go into lockdown for five days," the World No.1 said.

"So in a way it’s unfortunate for the crowd that we didn’t finish the match with them seeing the end. They were enjoying it certainly.”

Australian Open organisers released a statement on Friday afternoon saying: "Tennis Australia continues to work with the government to ensure the healthy and safety of everyone.

"We are notifying ticketholders, players and staff that there will be no fans onsite at the AO for five days, commencing from Saturday 13 February.

"Full refunds will be available for anyone who has tickets for these sessions and they will be advised on how to apply as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, Djokovic has admitted his Australian Open title defence remains in the balance because of an injury he suffered against Fritz.

The defending champion says that, "god willing", he hopes to line up in Sunday's fourth round match with big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic despite a suspected torn stomach muscle.

"Let's see," he said in his on-court interview.

"I don't have a great experience with (muscle) tears in terms of continuing in tournaments so it's kind of in the clouds for me at the moment whether I'm going to step out on the court in two days.

"I'm a bit worried because I don't know what's going on. I think it's a tear ... Hopefully, god willing, I'll be able to play."

with AAP

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