Australian Open 2021: Melbourne lockdown leaves tennis fans fuming and frustrated

The tournament will continue despite the mini-outbreak and lockdown, albeit without any crowds. This would be much like the US Open and French Open which were held towards the end of last season.

Rajdeep Puri February 12, 2021 13:45:28 IST
Australian Open 2021: Melbourne lockdown leaves tennis fans fuming and frustrated

Just as larger crowds began to trickle back into Melbourne Park after a few quiet days, Melburnians’ worst fear came true as the state government announced a “circuit breaker” five-day lockdown for the entire state, effective from midnight tonight. The lockdown, announced by State Premier Dan Andrews, is in response to 13 cases of community transmission of the UK strain of COVID-19 that spread through the Holiday Inn hotel in Melbourne.

The first case that emerged from the hotel was announced last week and has grown since then.

The tournament will continue despite the mini-outbreak and lockdown, albeit without any crowds. This would be much like the US Open and French Open which were held towards the end of last season.

This means that the blockbuster encounter between Dominic Thiem and Nick Kyrgios could potentially be the last match of the tournament to have crowds present. While the lockdown is scheduled to end at midnight on Wednesday, there is no confirmation that crowds would be allowed for the semi-finals and final.

Fans who purchased tickets for the next five days will now have to watch their favourite stars on TV. Richard (last name redacted on request), who was present with a group of friends, had tickets for each day of the tournament.

Australian Open 2021 Melbourne lockdown leaves tennis fans fuming and frustrated

Richard (second from right) and his friends enjoying one last day of the Australian Open. Image: Rajdeep Puri/Firstpost

He was left fuming as the lockdown was announced and visibly showed his frustration when asked about his thoughts on the lockdown.

“I’m bitterly disappointed and gutted. Someone needs to be held accountable for the decision that has been made, and for the situation that we are in right now. It is totally unacceptable,” he said.

“How many times can we go back into lockdown? If you had a child and they kept spelling the same word wrong, what would you do? You’d do something different. It’s unacceptable. I’ve got all the tickets now and I was going to see the best in the world play. I’m very upset,” he said.

For context, residents of Melbourne will face an extremely harsh lockdown for five days, much like they did for almost four months last year. This means that people will be allowed to leave their homes only for four reasons - essential work, essential shopping, caregiving, and exercise. No one can travel more than five kilometres from their house and cannot visit other people’s houses as well.

Lina Zuccarelli, an ardent tennis fan, had tickets to attend the Australian Open on Sunday, 14 February, along with her brother. However, due to the lockdown, they cannot attend the tournament.

“I am disappointed. We bought member pre-sale member tickets and organised a day well in advance, in December once the dates had been confirmed. I was excited and looking forward to it as I hadn’t been to a sporting event in a long time. My brother is really angry that the tickets have been cancelled. He has been working really hard and had bought tickets to the tennis to treat himself,” Zuccarelli said.

When asked about the government’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 cluster, she felt that the restrictions were harsh but required.

“I don’t think Stage 4 restrictions were necessary but they (government and public health team) have more information than us. They really emphasised the UK strain today and that makes us worry about how much worse it is that we have to go back into Stage 4. I wish crowds could go watch the tournament but that would be defeating the purpose of the lockdown.”

Under the Stage 4 restrictions, the government announced that only essential workers should be going into work while the rest of the workers would have to either work from home or pause their work.

“Tennis players are definitely not essential workers,” Zuccarelli said.

“If anything, I would have delayed the tournament by another week. The competition was already delayed in the first place so they should have postponed it by another week and the people who had their tickets could keep their tickets,” she said.

For now, fans who have tickets for Friday's matches will hope to soak it all in one last time before going back into lockdown. There will be no shortage of entertainment tonight as fan-favourite Kyrgios looks to topple world No 3 and US Open champion Dominic Thiem.

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