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Fans will be back at Australian Open starting Thursday as five-day lockdown ends

Fans will be back at the Australian Open — hopefully for the remainder of the tournament — as the five-day lockdown that included Melbourne is coming to an end.

AustralianOpenFans - Cropped AustralianOpenFans – Cropped

The five-day lockdown in the state of Victoria, which encompasses Melbourne, will end as scheduled at midnight on Wednesday. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made the announcement on Wednesday.

What it means for the Australian Open is that fans will be welcomed back starting on Thursday, albeit in a limited capacity that has not yet been confirmed. There has been no crowd in attendance dating back to last Friday. That has been the case since fans were removed in the middle of the fifth set of the Novak Djokovic vs. Taylor Fritz match around 11:30 pm local time last Thursday night so they could get home before the midnight curfew.

“I’m very, very pleased to announce that the restrictions will come off, almost all of them, at midnight tonight,” Andrews told reporters. “From 11:59 pm (Wednesday local time), the restrictions will be dropped [but] masks will be required indoors and outdoors when you can’t socially distance.

“There will be meetings this afternoon [to determine] what is a safe number (for the Australian Open). They already were reduced, they may have to be reduced further, but that matter will be resolved [later].”

Melbourne Park lockdown, 2021

Andrews says the capacity at public gatherings will be determined on a case by case basis.

It was determined for the Australian Open later on Wednesday, and the official word is just about 50 percent capacity. That equates to 7,477 spectators for each session.

Osaka looking forward to fans

Count Naomi Osaka among those who will be happy to see fans return. In fact, the Japanese world No. 3 wanted a crowd even if she was to go up against Ashleigh Barty in the women’s singles final on Saturday night — which would have obviously been a pro-Barty situation given that the world No 1 hails from the host nation.

“I would want people to come,” Osaka said following her quarter-final win over Hsieh Su-wei when asked about a potential final vs. Barty. “I’m sure she [Barty] would want a crowd and I would want a crowd too, even if they don’t cheer for me. That’s just the way life is. It’s just more fun.”

However, that scenario is no longer in play because Barty lost to Karolina Muchova in Wednesday’s first quarter-final contest.

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