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Australian Open tennis: Fans to return after Victoria's COVID-19 lockdown

Fans, who were barred from attending the 2021 Australian Open due to a five-day COVID-19 lockdown in Victoria can return to Rod Laver Arena Thursday to attend the remaining six matches of the tournament.  Photo by Jeffery from Christchurch, New Zealand/WikiMedia Commons
Fans, who were barred from attending the 2021 Australian Open due to a five-day COVID-19 lockdown in Victoria can return to Rod Laver Arena Thursday to attend the remaining six matches of the tournament.  Photo by Jeffery from Christchurch, New Zealand/WikiMedia Commons

Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Tennis fans can return to Melbourne Park and attend Australian Open matches starting Thursday after Victoria lifted a five-day COVID-19 lockdown, the Australian state and tournament organizers said.

Supporters were barred Friday from the matches amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in the state. Government officials said in January that 30,000 fans could be allowed to attend the Grand Slam, which started Jan. 10 and ends Sunday.

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The crowd will be reduced for the remainder of the tournament. Victoria's lockdown ended at 8 a.m. EST Wednesday (midnight Wednesday) in Melbourne.

"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," Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said in a news release.

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"The crowd will be capped at 7,477 for each session, which is approximately 50% capacity," Tiley said.

News of the returning crowds came just as the tournament reached the semifinal stage.

No. 3 Naomi Osaka will battle No. 11 Serena Williams in the first women's semifinal Thursday. Karolina Muchova then will face American Jennifer Brady on Thursday in the second women's semifinal.

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Men's No. 1 Novak Djokovic will plays a semifinal match Thursday against Aslan Karatsev. No. 4 Daniil Medvedev will battle No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday in the other semifinal.

The men's singles final is Sunday. The women's singles final is Saturday.

All of remaining tournament matches will be held at Rod Laver Arena, which has a capacity of nearly 15,000. Fans who attend the Australian Open are required to wear masks.

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