Taylor Fritz has labelled the decision to clear Rod Laver Arena midway through his Australian Open third round match against Novak Djokovic “absolutely ridiculous.”
Fresh lockdown measures issued by the state of Victoria on Friday after a Covid-19 outbreak at a Melbourne hotel meant fans had to leave the stadium at 11.30pm local time.
This saw the umpire stop the match at a crucial point in the fourth set, with Djokovic rallying after the 10-minute delay to ultimately overcome an abdominal injury and secure a 7-6(1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 victory.
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“I mean, to be honest, like, completely honest, it’s absolutely ridiculous that at a Grand Slam match we’re asked to leave the court for 10 minutes in the middle of the match, like, in the middle of the fourth set,” Fritz told reporters afterwards.
“I understand the fact that Victoria is going back into lockdown and people have to go. If that’s the case, then we shouldn’t have played tonight if we weren’t going to finish the match on time.”
Fritz, who looked to be on course for victory before the stop in play to clear the stands, insisted the lack of supporters for the final set-and-a-half harmed his chances of pulling off an upset against the world number one
“I guess not having fans there did I feel hurt me because they were kind of pushing for me,” the 23-year-old said. “But, you know, we still came back and I won the set.
“It’s not like it made that big of a deal. I just think it’s not really proper conditions to play a third round of a slam.”

Highlights: Djokovic overcomes injury to beat Fritz and reach fourth round

Our view

It’s almost impossible to know if having fans in the stands until the end of the match would have resulted in a Fritz win, but the American does have a point about the inconsistency in the conditions.
Compare it to how some Grand Slams will bring a roof over a court if they are expecting rain or wind later in the day. They do this to maintain consistency in conditions, to ensure a level playing field for the players involved.
This should have guided the Australian Open organisers here. If there was a good chance this match could overrun the Victoria curfew, they shouldn’t have started with fans in the stands.
The clearing of the court should have taken place after Simona Halep’s win over Veronika Kedermetova the match previously on Rod Laver Arena. That way this entire scenario could have been avoided.
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