The return of fans to Melbourne Park will boost the Australian Open atmosphere even further as the 2021 tournament reaches a thrilling conclusion.
As Melbourne re-emerges from a five-day snap lockdown, fans can embrace life in the city once again by securing seats for blockbuster matches at the business end of the event, beginning with Thursday’s women’s singles semifinals before the first of the men’s singles semis that evening.
“The crowd will be capped at 7,477 for each session, which is approximately 50 per cent capacity,” explained Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley.
“We look forward to welcoming fans back to the Australian Open for the next four days and to finishing the event safely and on a high.”
Adding to the heft of the matches on the schedule is the history at stake at the same time.
Women’s tennis icons Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka will clash in an incredible women’s semifinal at 2pm on Thursday, pitting a legend against the player many believe could go on to rule the tour in the way Williams has for the past two decades.
Should Serena prevail, she would stand just one victory from a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.
But should Osaka get the better of Williams, the Japanese star would extend her winning streak to 20 matches.
From 7.30pm Thursday, world No.1 Novak Djokovic, an irrepressible force at Melbourne Park, faces qualifier Aslan Karatsev – the latest match in his quest for a record-extending ninth AO title.
And should he get past Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals, world No.2 Rafael Nadal would line up against fourth seed Daniil Medvedev in a blockbuster Friday night semifinal.
Like Osaka, Medvedev would be shooting for an incredible 20th straight match win. But even more incredibly, a Nadal victory would see the Spaniard stand just one win away from a men’s record breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title.
It’s a record he currently shares with Roger Federer, and he may have to beat Djokovic to break it.
You could not write the plot-lines better if you tried.
Making it all the more exciting is the fact all of it will unfold with the added energy of crowds in the stands, a highlight of the first week of the tournament – most notably during Nick Kyrgios’ second- and third-round matches at John Cain Arena.
“Last week we had our first real experience of live sport with fans in the stands and the atmosphere was electric,” Tiley said.
“The players appreciated the opportunity to compete in front of crowds for the first time in almost a year, and many spoke about how emotional it was to connect with fans again.
“The COVIDSafe measures we had in place will continue, and we’ve opened up the zones so everyone can access the full site and enjoy both Grand Slam Oval and Garden Square.
“We are all looking forward to an incredible four days of tennis and can’t wait to see everyone back at the AO.”