Extraordinary scenes at the Australian Open as fans are BOOTED from the stands in the middle of Novak Djokovic’s evenly-poised match as snap Covid lockdown comes into force
- Australian Open fans were extraordinarily booted from ground during a match
- Fans were forced out at 11.30pm to comply with Melbourne lockdown rules
- Remainder Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz match was played with empty stands
- On dramatic night, Serbian overcame injury to win but is doubt for next round
Midway through the fourth set of the Serbian’s third round encounter with Taylor Fritz, fans in the stadium were told to leave the ground to comply with the state of Victoria’s lockdown starting at 11.59pm local time.
The shock announcement by the umpire was greeted to a chorus of boos before fans were forced to vacate the Rod Laver Arena.
Australian Open fans were extraordinarily booted from the stands during a match
Spectators were forced to leave the stadium to comply with Melbourne snap lockdown
Fans were unable to watch the rest of the encounter and were told to go back to their homes
Spectators had been able to attend matches for the Grand Slam tournament but a five-day lockdown was announced by the Australian Government on Thursday to try and stop the spread of the rampant UK variant of coronavirus in the state of Victoria.
It was initially thought that fans at the event on Friday would be exempt from the restrictions but they were informed by the umpire at 11.30pm that they must leave in order to be home by the curfew.
The virus, which originated at a hotel in outer Melbourne earlier this week, is ‘moving at a velocity that hasn’t been seen before,’ said State Premier Dan Andrews.
The remainder of match between Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz was played in empty stadium
Djokovic overcame an injury to win the match in five sets but is now a doubt for the next round
It is hoped the five day shutdown for all Victorian residents which begins at midnight on Friday night will be a ‘circuit breaker to ensure we do not have a third wave,’ Premier Andrews said. ‘If we wait to be absolutely certain we have the problem it will be too late.’
After play resumed following the delay, the world No. 1 eventually edged out his American opponent 7-6 (1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2, but his hopes of continuing are in the balance after suffering a torn stomach muscle.
When asked about the injury after the match, Djokovic said: ‘I really don’t know, my friend. Right now, I know it’s a tear, definitely, of the muscle.
The tournament has currently been operating with a reduced capacity for supporters
The next five days of the tournament will be played in empty stadiums because of restrictions
‘So I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days.’
Brisbane and Perth have recently employed similar, and successful, strategies to combat the UK variant.
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley is adamant that play will go on at the grand slam event that still has a further nine days to run from Saturday.
It has been designated as a workplace that can continue with a few essential staff only.
WATCH THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN LIVE ON EUROSPORT AND EUROSPORT APP