Australian Open: Grand slam to continue without fans as Victoria heads into lockdown

This year’s delayed Australian Open had started on Monday with a limited amount of fans – capped at 30,000 per day at Melbourne Park – due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Victorian government announced a new lockdown on Friday to control an outbreak of the UK coronavirus strain, state premier Daniel Andrews said.

Victoria’s new state-wide restrictions will be introduced from 11.59pm on Friday (February 12) – with reigning men’s champion Novak Djokovic still scheduled to close out the day – until Wednesday (February 17).

“Any number of other large and small professional sport events, they will function essentially as a workplace,” Andrews told reporters. “But they will not function as an entertainment event, because there will be no crowds.

“And the workforce will be the minimum that is needed in order for that to be COVID-safe and safe in lots of other contexts.”

In response, the Australian Open released a statement while tournament director Craig Tiley insisted the slam will continue.

“Tennis Australia continues to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” the Australian Open said in a statement.

“The Victorian government has announced a five day lockdown commencing at 11:59pm on Friday. Australian Open sessions today and tonight will continue as planned with COVIDSafe protocols in place.

“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.

“The AO broadcast-only contingency plan will commence from Saturday 13 February until restrictions are lifted. Play will continue uninterrupted on the broadcast, albeit without spectators onsite.”

The Australian Open was due to get underway in January, but the COVID-19 crisis forced the year’s first slam to be pushed back until February.

The lead-in tournaments across the ATP and WTA Tours took place behind closed doors in Melbourne.

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