The Australian Open – tennis’s first Grand Slam of the 12 months delayed till February – has lastly begun, albeit with a restrict on the variety of spectators current courtside as authorities battle to comprise the unfold of the coronavirus.
A smaller crowd than regular was current on the opening day on Monday.
Type and health are extremely unpredictable on the Australian Open after the coronavirus worn out 5 months of final season and badly disrupted preparations for the primary Grand Slam of 2021.
The Australian Open was postponed to permit gamers to quarantine and play warm-up occasions, which have been suspended for a day final week after a coronavirus case at a match lodge.
Monday’s complete attendance was 17,922 – a far cry from a 12 months in the past, when 64,387 got here by the turnstiles on day one.
It’s the fourth Grand Slam match affected by the coronavirus after final 12 months’s Wimbledon was cancelled, the French Open was postponed and the US Open was held behind closed doorways.
On the court docket
Defending champion Novak Djokovic stated he performed “flawless and dominant tennis” as he cruised previous Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
The Serbian world primary, who clinched his seventeenth Grand Slam in final 12 months’s gripping Melbourne closing in opposition to Dominic Thiem, wasted little power within the 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 romp in simply 91 minutes on Rod Laver Area.
Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep additionally loved convincing wins because the match lastly received below manner after a troubled build-up.
Within the males’s draw, US Open champion Dominic Thiem was made to work laborious within the first set by Kazakh veteran Mikhail Kukushkin earlier than coming by 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-3.
Gael Monfils, the French tenth seed, was shocked 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 by Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, the world quantity 86, in three hours and 46 minutes.
Quarantine an impediment to athletes’ efficiency
In the meantime, Frenchman Benoit Paire criticised organisers for his or her “shameful” therapy of gamers throughout quarantine earlier than the match, saying an absence of coaching as a consequence of strict restrictions contributed to his first-round exit.
World quantity 29 Paire, who misplaced 2-6 6-2 6-7(5/7) 5-7 to Egor Gerasimov, was one in all 72 gamers who have been unable to go away their rooms to coach throughout quarantine after passengers on their flights to Melbourne examined constructive for COVID-19.
A number of top-ranked gamers, together with Djokovic and Thiem, had self-isolated in Adelaide forward of an exhibition occasion and have been allowed to coach 5 hours a day.
“I feel it’s s***, and what occurred is shameful,” Paire informed French media on Monday. “I’m very proud of my degree … however this match, I feel it’s actually crap. There was additionally a constructive case on the flight to Adelaide, however there, that they had time to take blood samples. We have been informed to quarantine.
“Both we do the identical issues and the identical guidelines for everybody. I don’t perceive why it’s not honest for everybody … This match, I might have gained it if I had had one or two extra coaching periods, a standard preparation.”
Electrical line calls, a welcome addition
One space the place the coronavirus’s impact on the game has not been disputed is the introduction of electrical line know-how, with human judges changed by ball-tracking cameras to cut back the variety of folks on-site at Melbourne Park.
Williams and Osaka have been among the many gamers to provide their seal of approval because the digital system made its Grand Slam debut.
The cameras are arrange alongside every line and routinely announce their choices in real-time, with a recorded human voice calling “out”, “fault” and “foot fault”.
The digital calls function pre-recorded voices of Australia’s front-line employees within the nation’s pandemic response equivalent to firefighters and different emergency response personnel.