© AFP/Getty Images

Australian Open fans cheer on home hero Alex De Minaur during his second-round win Thursday. The World No. 23 will play his next match before empty stands.

Fans Face 5-Day Australian Open Lockout

Strict COVID-19 lockdown from Saturday through Wednesday means no fans will be in attendance, but Australian Open play will continue

The next five days of the Australian Open will be played behind closed doors after the Victorian Government implemented strict new lockdown rules following several positive COVID-19 tests linked to a Melbourne airport hotel.

Victorians will only be allowed to leave home for essential work, education that can’t be done remotely, care giving, brief exercise and to buy food and supplies, conditions that don’t permit attendance at the year’s first Grand Slam tennis tournament.

Players will only be allowed to move between their hotels and Melbourne Park. Everyone in Victoria will be required to wear a mask outside their home.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the strong move was in response to 13 positive COVID-19 tests connected to the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport. With the stage-four lockdown conditions not beginning until 11.59pm Friday night Melbourne time, fans will be able to attend the Australian Open today. The lockdown is set to end Wednesday at 11.59pm.

Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley addressed reporters around 3.30pm local time, saying that the closed-door scenario had always been among the tournament’s contingency plans. “All along we have said our number one priority is the safety and health of the community as well as all our guests from around the world,” Tiley said. “We have a series of contingency plans, ranging from the cancellation of the event to what we’ve been experiencing. One of the plans has been to compete in a bubble and do it in a safe way. There has been a playbook for this and we started operationalising based on the decisions made today by the Premier."

Tiley does not believe that the statewide lockdown will have a significant impact on player preparations for the remainder of the event. “Players will be under the same restrictions as all Victorians when they leave the [Melbourne Park] precinct. [But] I imagine they will spend all of their time here. They’ve got to practise, they’ve got to prepare… This is how the majority of the players do it year-round. They go from the hotel to the site. This is something they are very used to.”

If the lockdown ends as scheduled, fans will be able to attend the semi-finals on Thursday and Friday, the women’s singles final on Saturday and the men’s singles final Sunday.

“We hope the lockdown does its job, and if that’s the case we’ll be able to have fans back for the last four days of the event and showcase to everyone a great finish to what’s been so far a great event," Tiley added.

“[The lockdown] will have a financial impact. It has been a very expensive exercise to put this on, but it’s also been an opportunity to support jobs and provide economic value to the community and also to the sport of tennis globally.”

More stories like this in: