Fans to return to Australian Open

Australian Open organisers have today (Wednesday) confirmed that fans will return for the conclusion of the grand slam tennis tournament after the state of Victoria announced that its short-term COVID-19 lockdown will be lifted.

Victoria State Premier Dan Andrews said the five-day lockdown will end at midnight on Wednesday, opening up the potential for fans to return to Melbourne Park from tomorrow. Following Andrews’ announcement, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed that the fan attendance strategy would be reactivated, on a similar level as before. 

“We look forward to welcoming fans back to the Australian Open for the next four days and to finishing the event safely and on a high,” said Tiley. “The crowd will be capped at 7,477 for each session, which is approximately 50% capacity.

“Last week we had our first real experience of live sport with fans in the stands and the atmosphere was electric. The players appreciated the opportunity to compete in front of crowds for the first time in almost a year, and many spoke about how emotional it was to connect with fans again.

“The COVIDSafe measures we had in place will continue, and we’ve opened up the zones so everyone can access the full site and enjoy both Grand Slam Oval and Garden Square.”

The Australian Open went behind closed doors on Saturday after Andrews announced a five-day, state-wide lockdown in an effort to contain a new COVID-19 outbreak. The 2021 Open began on February 8, although only 17,922 fans were in attendance across all venues. This figure was in stark contrast to the opening day of the 2020 Australian Open, which was attended by 64,387 fans.

Organisers were given the green light to admit up to 30,000 fans per day, which represents half of the usual attendance, in line with COVID-19 restrictions. The 30,000 cap was due to be reduced to 25,000 for the final five days of the tennis grand slam, when fewer matches are taking place.

Tiley’s reference to 50% capacity relates to the main Rod Laver Arena, which seats around 15,000 fans. The Australian Open failed to hit its 30,000 capacity on most days before the shutdown was instigated on Saturday. However, organisers will be keen for fans to return having spent a reported A$40m (£22.4m/€25.7m/$31.1m) alone on ensuring players went through 14 days of quarantine.

The tournament is due to conclude on Sunday.

Image: Tennis Australia