Australian Open: Fans set to return to Melbourne Park after lockdown lifted

By Sports Desk February 16, 2021

Australian Open fans are set to return to Melbourne Park from Thursday after the Victorian government confirmed the lifting of restrictions following a five-day lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the number of supporters set to attend remains unknown, fans will be back in their seats for the beginning of the Australian Open semi-finals, with record-chasing Serena Williams set to face three-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka in Melbourne.

Defending men's champion Novak Djokovic will play the tournament’s surprise package, Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev - who is the first player to reach a semi-final on their grand slam debut.

Djokovic was on court when the lockdown came into effect last Friday, with the five-day "circuit-breaker" designed to control an outbreak of the UK coronavirus strain.

Part of the third round, the fourth round and quarter-finals of singles action were played behind closed doors after a series of outbreaks in Victoria.

The state has recorded 12 more active cases since the lockdown was implemented but, with none discovered in the past 24 hours, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced restrictions will be eased.

"I'm very, very pleased to announce that the restrictions will come off, almost all of them, at midnight tonight," Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.

"From 11:59pm [Wednesday local time], the restrictions will be dropped [but] masks will be required indoors and outdoors when you can't socially distance."

The stage-four restrictions meant residents could not leave their homes for any other reason than work, shopping for groceries, exercise or the giving or receiving of medial care.

This year's delayed Australian Open has had crowds capped at 30,000 per day with original COVID-19 restrictions, but new limits are yet to be determined for the rest of the tournament.

"There will be meetings this afternoon [to determine] what is a safe number," Andrews said.

"They already were reduced, they may have to be reduced further, but that matter will be resolved in the next few hours."

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    Novak Djokovic knows there is still plenty more to come from Carlos Alcaraz after the Spaniard's dominant display in the Wimbledon final.

    Alcaraz beat Djokovic 6-2 6-2 7-6 (7-4) to retain his crown at All England Club and clinch his fourth major title overall.

    At 21 years and 70 days, he is the youngest player to win both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same season.

    And while Alcaraz said he does not count himself among the list of tennis' great champions, Djokovic has no doubt that the next generation's superstar is destined to scale such heights.

    "Obviously, not the result I wanted, in the first couple of sets, the level of tennis wasn't up to par from my side," Djokovic said.

    "But credit to Carlos for playing some amazing tennis, very complete, he had it all today.

    "I tried to push him, saved the three match points and extended the match a little bit, but it wasn't meant to be.

    "He was a deserved winner today, so a huge congratulations to him for an amazing performance.

    "To his team, his family, an amazing job you guys are doing, clearly. Everything you have done so far, he's only 21, it's incredible, we'll see a lot of you, I'm sure."

    Alcaraz and Djokovic have already met six times, with three of those matches coming in finals, including last year's Wimbledon showpiece. They share an even 3-3 record.

  • Wimbledon: Djokovic living childhood dream despite final defeat Wimbledon: Djokovic living childhood dream despite final defeat

    Novak Djokovic is "living his childhood dream" every time he steps out on Wimbledon's Centre Court, despite his straight-sets defeat to Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday.

    Djokovic, who has played in each of the last six finals at All England Club, faced Alcaraz in a repeat of last year's championship match but fell to a 6-2 6-2 7-6 (7-4) defeat.

    It was his 10th Wimbledon final overall, with this one even more impressive due to his recovery from a knee operation that he suffered at the French Open, which was also won by Alcaraz.

    A win would have made Djokovic the most decorated player in grand slam history, and taken him level with Roger Federer's record of eight men's singles crowns at SW19.

    And the 37-year-old chose to look on the bright side as he took in Centre Court after the match.

    "I have to be very proud," Djokovic said.

    "Obviously, it's a bit of a disappointment right now, but when I reflect on the last couple of weeks and the last four to five weeks and what I've been through, along with my team members and family, I'm very satisfied, because Wimbledon was always the childhood dream of mine, playing on the centre stage.

    "I try to remind myself how surreal it is to be here, even if I've been blessed to be in 10 finals, every single time I step on Centre Court, it feels like the first time. I'm living my childhood dream."

    Djokovic is a 24-time major champion and after a glittering career, he claimed he may end up moving into coaching for his children in the future... if they in fact do want to take up tennis.

    "My kids, they now start to like tennis a little bit," he added with a smile over at his family.

    "I don't know if I have the nerves to keep on going with a coaching career for my son. There are a lot of beautiful things other than tennis, but if you wish to pursue it, I'll be there for you.

    "I want to say thanks to my whole team, physio, everyone, for sticking with me through good and bad times. We're the only ones who know what we've been through. Let's keep it going."

  • Wimbledon: Back-to-back champion Alcaraz 'repeating the dream' Wimbledon: Back-to-back champion Alcaraz 'repeating the dream'

    Carlos Alcaraz "repeated the dream" after securing back-to-back Wimbledon titles by overcoming Novak Djokovic.

    Alcaraz was in dominant form from the off on Sunday and, despite a late wobble, clinched his fourth major title in straight sets.

    The Spaniard did have to settle his nerves in the final set, having squandered three championship points on his own serve.

    But having found his rhythm again in the tiebreak, Alcaraz played two exceptional drop shots to set the stage for a loose return from Djokovic to round off a 6-2 6-2 7-6 (7-4) win.

    "It's a dream for me, winning this trophy," Alcaraz said.

    "I did an interview when I was 11 or 12, saying my dream is to win Wimbledon. I've repeated my dream. I want to keep going, but it's a great feeling to play on this beautiful court, win this beautiful trophy. It's the most beautiful tournament, court and trophy.

    "Djokovic is an unbelievable fighter, I knew he would have his chances again. I tried to win it on my serve. I couldn't, but I tried to stay calm, stay positive and play my best tennis in the tiebreak. I found the solutions."

    The 21-year-old has become the youngest player in the Open Era to triumph at the French Open and Wimbledon in the same season.

    "Just fighting, believing, it's a huge tournament for me and a huge achievement for me to be part of those players who have won Roland-Garros and Wimbledon in the same year," said Alcaraz.

    "[They are] huge champions. I don't consider myself as much of a champion yet as them, but I'll keep on going, keep on building my path."

    Djokovic made a miraculous recovery from knee surgery to feature at SW19, where he reached the final for the 10th time in his career, a tally bettered only by Roger Federer (12).

    "Some words for Novak and his team," Alcaraz added as he addressed the seven-time Wimbledon champion.

    "It's been a really difficult few weeks for you, unbelievable work to play this tournament after the surgery. I have huge respect for you and your team."

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