Australian Open will be staged without fans for five days following new Covid measures

THE biggest match of Cameron Norrie’s life will held behind closed doors after new lockdown restrictions were imposed at the Australian Open.

The State of Victoria will enter lockdown for a third time as officials try to suppress an outbreak of the UK mutant strain of coronavirus.

There had been 13 positive Covid-19 tests linked to the Holiday Inn at Melbourne airport.

Lockdown measures will begin from 11.59pm local time on Friday and end on Wednesday, meaning the Australian Open will be staged without fans for five days.

There had been a daily cap of 30,000 visitors to Melbourne Park this week but all tickets will now be refunded. If the period is not extended, there could be crowds back for the women’s semi-finals on Thursday.

Victorians can only leave home for essential work, education that can’t be done remotely, care giving, brief exercise and to buy food and supplies.

British No.3 Norrie is set to play world No.2 Rafa Nadal in the third round on Saturday on the Rod Laver Arena but it could be a real anti-climax with nobody there to watch it due to the new shutdown rules.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said: “We’ve built something precious, and we have to make difficult decisions, and do difficult things, in order to defend what we’ve built.

“I am confident that this short, sharp circuit breaker will be effective. We will be able to smother this.”

Players, who are classified as "essential workers", can only move between their hotels and the tennis and will have to wear masks while outside.

An Australian Open statement said: “Tennis Australia continues to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone.

“The Victorian government has announced a five-day lockdown commencing at 11:59pm on Friday. Australian Open sessions today and tonight will continue as planned with Covid-safe protocols in place.

“We are notifying ticketholders, players and staff that there will be no fans onsite at the Australian Open for five days, commencing from Saturday February 13.

“Full refunds will be available for anyone who has tickets for these sessions.

“The AO broadcast-only contingency plan will commence from Saturday February 13 until restrictions are lifted.

It’s rough. It’s going to be a rough few days for I think everyone. But we’ll hopefully get through it.

“Play will continue uninterrupted on the broadcast, albeit without spectators onsite.”

The announcement from the Premier was made during Serena Williams' 7-6 6-2 win over Russian Anastasia Potapova in the third round on Friday.

There were bizarre scenes when people started leaving the Rod Laver Arena to try to book flights home on their phones.

American Williams will play in front of empty stands against Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, the No. 7 seed, on Sunday in the fourth round.

The 39-year-old said: “It’s rough. It’s going to be a rough few days for I think everyone. But we’ll hopefully get through it.

“It’s not ideal. It’s been really fun to have the crowds back, especially here. It’s been really cool.

“But, you know what, at the end of the day we have to do what’s best. Hopefully it will be all right.

“I don’t know. I think basically we just go to the tennis, to the hotel. I’m not sure. I would imagine that would be it.”

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