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  • Jason Regan

Melbourne Park resembles a ghost town

Whether it's a hangover from the Novak Djokovic saga or the swirling threat of Omicron, fans have shunned day one of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

Spectators are seen outside of Rod Laver Arena on Day 1 of the Australian Open tennis tournament, at Melbourne Park, in Melbourne, Monday, January 17, 2022. (AAP Image/James Ross)

After 10 days dominated by Djokovic's visa fiasco, which led to the defending champion and top seed being deported from Australia before a ball toss, the Open looked to have lost its usual lustre.

The Victorian government announced last week crowd capacity would be capped at 50 per cent during the next fortnight in line with the state's COVID-19 protocols.

In another deterrent, those who did venture out to Melbourne Park were greeted by long lines for a vaccination certificate check with only the double vaxxed permitted through the gates.

With grey skies overhead early on and blustery winds following in the afternoon, the normally bustling garden square resembled a ghost town leaving entertainers to perform to just a few.

While lucky loser Italian Salvatore Caruso took Djokovic's spot at the top of the men's draw, the world No.1 still proved a favourite with some fans taking photographs at the main stadium in front of an image of Djokovic holding up the trophy he won each of the past three years.

Djokovic's ban may have accelerated the inevitable, with fixtures from the past two decades like Swiss maestro Roger Federer and the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, all missing. 

Organisers will be hoping that spectators warm to the occasion, with Australia's world No.1 Ash Barty a hot favourite to lift the women's crown.


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