TENNIS fans were booted out of the Australian Open during play just minutes before a new lockdown in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic‘s match was stopped at 11.30pm local time for crowds to leave and get home before midnight in chaotic scenes.
Fans were escorted out during the fourth setCredit: AP:Associated Press
Some fans were reluctant to leaveCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Djokovic fans cheered their man as they left the arenaCredit: AP:Associated Press
The state of Victoria introduced a snap five-day lockdown to suppress an outbreak of the UK coronavirus strain.
Up to 30,000 fans a day were allowed to attend the tennis tournament, which was delayed until February this year.
But the next five days of action will take place behind closed doors.
Spectators could return for the latter stages of the competition, which is due to finish on February 21.
Djokovic’s clash with Taylor Fritz on the main Rod Laver Arena was played in front of a sparse crowd.
And the Aussie locals were bemused when told they had to leave with the match during the fourth set.
Announcements on the public address system before 11.30pm asking them to start making their way home were loudly booed.
Melbourne residents endured a harsh lockdown over 100 days long during their winter to avoid a second wave.
New local restrictions forced fans to leave earlyCredit: AP:Associated Press
Novak Djokovic takes on Taylor Fritz under the lights on Rod Laver ArenaCredit: Reuters
Australia has seen 28,887 Covid cases and 909 deaths.
After the match, Djokovic revealed he came close to retiring from the tournament and admitted his injury might KO his singles title defence this weekend.
The world No.1 played through the pain barrier during his dramatic 7-6 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 victory over Fritz.
The Serbian extended his winning record in the Slam to 17 matches but he hurt his side as he slipped in the third game of the third set.
The 33-year-old had a medical timeout and surrendered two sets as it went to a decider.
Djokovic, who screamed at the top of his lungs when he won, told Eurosport it was a muscle tear – and it could end his Aussie Open.
Now scheduled now to play Canadian big serve Milos Raonic, Djokovic said: “It’s a huge relief to pull this one through in these kinds of conditions.
“It was one-of-a-kind type of match. It was definitely one of the best moments I’ve had in my career under these kind of circumstances.
“I don’t really want to talk about the intensity or the level of injury or the pain.
“The way it felt, when I got my first medical time out, I was debating really strongly in my head to retire the match because I couldn’t move.
“I couldn’t rotate, I couldn’t return. The only thing I could do is serve and that’s what got me out of trouble.
“I think it’s a tear. I knew right away that something not great is happening and it was confirmed by the ATP physio.
“Let’s see, I don’t know – I don’t have a great experience with tears in terms of continuing in the tournament. So that’s something that’s in the clouds. Hopefully, God willing, I’ll be able to play.
“I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days.”