Australian Open organisers get all clear for up to 30,000 fans a day
Provincial health chiefs have given organisers of the Australian Open the green light to allow up to 30,000 spectators daily at the event.
The first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the season begins on 8 February at Melbourne Park.
It was delayed from its usual start in the middle of January so that competitors could observe the quarantine rules operating in the state of Victoria where Melbourne is located.
"This will be the largest international event with an audience that the world has seen in many months,” said Martin Pakula, Victoria’s minister of sports.
The first eight days of the tournament will be seen by 30,000 people in the 20 courts in Melbourne Park. Up to 25,000 spectators will be allowed to watch the action from on the three showcourts from the quarter-finals onwards.
"After playing professional tennis for more than 15 years, this is one of the biggest driving forces or motivations, inspirations that I have, playing in front of a crowd," said world number one Novak Djokovic, who last year won a record-extending eighth Australian Open crown.
"Feeding off that energy, exchanging that great passion and joy that I have for the sport and the fans have for the sport."
Last year nearly 800,000 people passed through the Melbourne Park during the fortnight before the full impact of the coronavirus became clear.
Latest figures show just over 900 deaths following 29,000 cases of infection.
“We’re hoping for an incredible atmosphere at the end of the tournament, not so different from that seen at all the Opens in recent years,” added Pakula.
On Monday, former world number one Serena Williams said she might not have been able to play had the event not been delayed.
The 23-time grand slam singles champion withdrew with an achilles injury before her second-round match at the French Open last October. She said her foot had taken longer than expected to heal.
"I don’t think I would have been here if it had been at the normal time," said the 39-year-old after beating Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 6-4 at the Yarra Valley Classic.
"The delay was great for me because I needed the time," added the seven time champion. "I couldn’t practise. I definitely took that time to recover and now it’s a lot better. Achilles are like the worst thing, honestly."
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