Eerie photos show an empty Melbourne Park on a usually packed-out Saturday of the Australian Open – after crowds were chucked out of as soon as lockdown started
- A coronavirus outbreak linked to a quarantine hotel in Melbourne has plunged all Victoria into lockdown
- Restrictions came into effect at 11.59pm on Friday night leaving fans booted out of the stadium mid-match
- On Saturday, gameplay went ahead but with no crowds with the Australian Open treated like a ‘workplace’
Usually packed out on middle Saturday, a fan-free Melbourne Park is eerily quiet during Victoria’s five-day lockdown because of another COVID-19 outbreak.
From a buzzy night match at Rod Laver Arena to playing in an empty stadium, Elina Svitolina has described a fan-free Australian Open as ‘disturbing and sad’.
The world No.5 was among the first players in round-three action at Melbourne Park on Saturday since Victoria was plunged into a snap five-day lockdown.
The midpoint of the year’s first major, the first Saturday is usually the most popular with crowds and their five-day absence is a massive blow for organisers already taking a huge hit with reduced capacity.
The Ukrainian swept aside Yulia Putintseva of Kazahstan 6-4 6-0 with the Open venue eerily quiet, with only officials and the players’ support staff permitted.
Svitolina, who has reached the quarter-finals twice at the Open and is a two-time major semi-finalist, said it was tough to adjust.
From a buzzy night match at Rod Laver Arena to playing in an empty stadium, Elina Svitolina (pictured on Saturday) has described a fan-free Australian Open as ‘disturbing and sad’
Margaret Court Arena sat empty on Saturday (pictured) during the in her Women’s Singles third round match between Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan and Elina Svitolina of Ukraine during day six of the 2021 Australian Open
‘It was very different conditions – I played a night match at 7pm with a good crowd and now it was completely different,’ Svitolina said.
‘It was for sure a bit disturbing, I would say, in some ways sad but it is what it is.’
The 26-year-old says it felt like a practice match, and she had to force herself to switch on.
‘I tried to convince myself that it’s a grand slam and that we are playing an important match and I have to focus.’
Svitolina said it was tougher for the losing player, without the crowds there to urge them on.
‘When you are down, I think you feel like you’re almost alone here,’ said the former world No.3.
‘People give you energy, they are supporting you, they are trying to get you back into the match.’
American Mackenzie McDonald serves to South Africa’s Lloyd Harris during their third round match at the Australian Open on Saturday (pictured) with stands sitting empty
The next five days of the tournament will be played in empty stadiums because of restrictions brought in to stop a new coronavirus outbreak (pictured on Friday night when crowds were booted out)
The first match to be completed under the new conditions was the Friday night clash between world No.1 Novak Djokovic and American Taylor Fritz.
The match was bizarrely halted at 11.30pm while the crowd was cleared so fans could get home by the midnight lockdown deadline.
‘Nothing surprises me any more with what we’re experiencing globally,’ said Djokovic, when asked what he felt about the enforced mid-match exodus.
‘Obviously, it’s a unique experience for me – to play half of the match in front of a crowd and half of the match without the crowd. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.
‘I’m just hoping that, for my own sake, I’ll be able to play and, for the sake of this tournament, we’ll be able to have a crowd very quickly.’
The remainder of match between Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz was played in an empty stadium on Friday night (pictured)