Australian Open to continue without crowds as Victoria launches snap Covid-19 lockdown
- Premier of Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, says tennis venue is considered a ‘workplace’ and can continue to function with limited staff
- In third round action, Japan’s Naomi Osaka and Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei both advance with contrasting victories
The Australian Open will proceed without crowds over the next five days, organisers said, after the state of Victoria was placed under a snap lockdown from Friday to contain a fresh outbreak of Covid-19.
“Australian Open sessions today and tonight will continue as planned with Covid-safe protocols in place,” organisers said in a statement.
“We are notifying ticket holders, players and staff that there will be no fans onsite at the AO for five days, commencing from Saturday 13 February.”
Premier Daniel Andrews of Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, said the tennis venue would be considered a “workplace” that can continue to function with limited staff.
“Large and small professional sport events ... will function essentially as a workplace,” he said. “But they will not function as an entertainment event, because there will be no crowds.”
The year’s first grand slam opened on Monday with limited crowds due to existing virus restrictions, after players all underwent mandatory quarantine.
Melbourne’s five million residents were ordered to stay at home for five days from midnight after a cluster of Covid-19 cases leaked from a quarantine hotel at the city’s airport.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Naomi Osaka and Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei both advanced to the fourth round. Osaka beat Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in straight sets, while Hsieh overcame Italy’s Sara Errani 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.
Osaka had to deal with a butterfly landing on her nose but was otherwise little bothered as she breezed into the last 16 and a showdown with last year’s runner-up Garbine Muguruza.
The third seed, champion in Melbourne two years ago, gently carried the insect intruder to safety at the side of the court before closing out an easy 6-3, 6-2 victory over 27th seed Jabeur.
Osaka, who has dropped just 13 games in her opening three matches, is great friends with Jabeur and said playing against was “really fun”.
“I was really nervous and scared because I didn’t know if she was gonna hit a drop shot on me, so I felt kind of rushed,” Osaka said.
Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka beat American Ann Li 6-3, 6-1 to match her best grand slam showing by advancing to the fourth round and a showdown against Serena Williams.
Williams, 39, overcame erratic strokes and two set points to beat Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.
Williams was eliminated in the third round at Melbourne last year, and appeared destined for the same fate until the 19-year-old Potapova became unnerved. Serving at 5-4, the young Russian held two set points but double-faulted five times and was broken.
“I definitely feel good to be in the fourth round,” Williams said. “It’s about surviving and playing better every round.”
Williams is again seeking to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles. Williams won her 23rd at the 2017 Australian Open.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press