MELBOURNE (AUSTRALIA) – The Melbourne Park precinct was met with eerie silence on the sixth day of the Australian Open, a day which is usually one of the best attended.
In a bid to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 authorities imposed a flash five-day lockdown which came into effect just before midnight on Friday, restricting Victoria’s six million residents to their homes and shutting fans out of the tennis.
Tennis players also fall into that official classification for the next five days in Melbourne. For the duration of the lockdown, the players will be transported between a Melbourne Park “bubble” and their residences, where they have to follow the same restrictions as everyone else.
The players have accepted the lockdown with equanimity, 20 of them got back to work in front of empty stands in two singles and four doubles matches on Saturday.
“I was so happy yesterday morning when I thought I would be playing in front of a big crowd,” Karolina Muchova said after her win on Saturday over Karolina Pliskova in Rod Laver Arena, which usually holds almost 15,000 fans.
“Unlucky now for five days but hopefully they will come back. It’s definitely better with fans.”
Organisers are hoping fans will be back in the stands from Thursday onwards for the semi-finals and finals, though the numbers have been restricted to 25,000 a day.
Only one new locally acquired case was confirmed in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, Victoria health authorities said, taking the number of active cases in the state to 20.