MELBOURNE, February 12
The Australian Open’s last day of crowds before a five-day lockdown ended with irate fans ejected from Rod Laver Arena late today, and an injury-hampered Novak Djokovic rallying to claim victory in front of empty seats.
It was a surreal finish to a roller-coaster Day 5, with Djokovic digging deep to complete a courageous 7-6(1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 win over American Taylor Fritz after his title defence appeared doomed due to an apparent side strain.
Fans were advised well in advance that they would need to leave the arena at 11:30pm, half an hour before Melbourne entered a snap lockdown at midnight today to contain a fresh outbreak of Covid-19. Play was suspended in the fourth set of Djokovic’s match to have fans clear out but many left slowly and grudgingly. Some booed and shouted for refunds on their tickets.
Djokovic ended up completing victory some 20 minutes after midnight and his roars of triumph echoed around the arena.
He was proud to survive but unsure whether he could continue his bid for a record-extending ninth title at Melbourne Park.
“I know it’s a tear, definitely, I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in two days,” he said.
Serena Williams roared back from 3-5 down in the opening set to overcome Russian Anastasia Potapova 7-6(5) 6-2. The American will next face in-form Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka. — Reuters
- Men: Dominic Thiem bt Nick Kyrgios 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4; Felix Auger Aliassime bt Denis Shapovalov 7-5 7-5 6-3; Alexander Zverev bt Adrian Mannarino 6-3 6-3 6-1
- Women: Simona Halep bt Veronika Kudermetova 6-1 6-3; Naomi Osaka bt Ons Jabeur 6-3 6-2; Iga Swiatek bt Fiona Ferro 6-4 6-3