Melbourne: As the curtains came down on Day 5 at Melbourne Park, 71,979 fans would have gone home and thought about how each and every penny spent on the tickets was worth it.
The Australian Open produced a crazy, drama-filled day today at Melbourne Park, with fans witnessing epic matches, upsets, and just some great tennis, in general.
Also known as the “happy slam” or the “players slam”, it is quite normal to witness over 20,000 fans inside Melbourne Park after midnight. However, to have that happen during the first week was a rare sight at the Australian Open.
It was no surprise that the organisers witnessed the largest turnout at the tournament so far, given the fact that the rain and wind stayed away, the sun was out, and there were great matches on the cards, none of which disappointed.
There were long queues outside every court right from 10am in the morning till midnight. Court 3 was one which saw fans wait for hours on end just to get in. It was great for the game of doubles, which is usually not as popular as singles. However, courts were packed to watch all the doubles action as well. One of the highly anticipated matches of the day was the mixed doubles encounter in which Australia’s very own Nick Kyrgios took part.
There was not an empty seat as the pair of Kyrgios and American youngster Amanda Anisimova did not disappoint, winning their first round encounter in straight sets. What was great to see was how the women’s and men’s doubles matches prior to Kyrgios’s match was filled to capacity as well.
A day of upsets to please the crowd
Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, and Stefanos Tsitsipas were not only favourites to win Friday’s matches but were favourites to reach the final few days of the Slam as well. However, as fate would have it, all three of them were knocked out — Tsitsipas and Osaka in straight sets.
The last time Serena played Qiang Wang, the Chinese won just one single game throughout the match and lost in 44 minutes. Today, she outlasted the 23-time Grand Slam champion 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 to advance to Round 4. Perhaps, she was spurred by the backing of the overwhelmingly Chinese crowd on a day that's celebrated as Chinese New Year. Whatever it was, it worked wonders for Wang as she rolled the first dice on a day full of upsets.
Melbourne is known to be extremely inclusive of all cultures and immigrants as well. The Chinese population makes up for 8.5 percent of the population, according to the 2016 census. Today, it felt like a large number of them were inside Rod Laver Arena cheering on the 28-year-old.
The last set was particularly loud, with the majority of the crowd in favour of the Chinese ace, something which is not a very common sight when the player on the opposite end is Serena. But, there is something about an underdog winning which gets the crowd riled up and that is exactly what happened.
However, all was not lost for the American supporters. While a player from one generation lost, another player from a different generation won. 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff continues to make headlines as she defeated defending champion Naomi Osaka in the second upset of the day.
Following that was another surprising loss, for Greek youngster Tsitsipas. The 20-year-old lost to former World No 4 Milos Raonic in straight sets on Margaret Court Arena. However, despite the loss, the atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic. The Greek population of Melbourne, which mainly surrounds a number of South-Eastern suburbs was out in large numbers to support their No 1.
Despite there being no real reason to cheer on Tsitsipas, the crowd cheered, chanted, and made their voices hoarse until the very end. The supporters were so loud that play had to be stopped as the players and the umpire could hear them singing outside the stadium as well.
Unfortunately for those supporters, Tsitsipas could not produce the goods as he crashed out the Australian Open.
The best for last
The best was definitely saved for last. If three epic matches were not enough, fans were treated to four hours of pure adrenaline as Roger Federer and John Millman put on a show, which went until nearly 1 am.
While the Aussie fans had a great day out in the sun, the only regret for a majority of them would have been Millman’s loss against Federer. 8-4 up in the final set's super tie-break after playing some extraordinary points, Federer produced yet another comeback to win the next six points in a row to move into the fourth round.
It was one of those rare instances where the crowd support was divided between the two players. Usually, more than 75 percent of the crowd is always on the side of the 20-time Grand Slam champion, but the Aussies inside Rod Laver Arena showed their love for the home player.
While the tennis was nothing short of spectacular, the battle between the fans of both the players was a treat to the eyes as well. Every “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oye!” was followed by a “Roger, Roger, Roger, Oye!” and every “Lets go, Millman, let’s go!” was followed by a similar chant for the Swiss superstar.
The Australian fans gave it their all but the Federer fans, who were from all around the world, including a few Australians as well, made sure to be extremely vociferous as well.
Millman himself felt that the crowd support for him in the first two rounds was a lot louder on Friday. Federer, on the other hand, joked that saying he was okay with not having majority of the crowd supporting him.
In addition to all the exciting matches which took place, the general atmosphere created by the organisers at Melbourne Park keeps the fans coming back for more. A large number of restaurants, cafes, and bars set up inside the Park provides for great entertainment for the fans while taking a break from all the tennis.
With a few potential epics in store on Saturday, fans can only hope that they will be able to witness something as extraordinary and crazy as today. With Kyrgios taking on Karen Kachanov, they are surely in for a joyous ride!
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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2020 22:00:26 IST