Fuming American Taylor Fritz has slammed the decision to remove fans midway through his clash with Novak Djokovic as “absolutely ridiculous”, saying it was should not happen at a Grand Slam. In extraordinary scenes, his match with the eight-time champion was suspended at 11:30 pm on Friday night to clear Rod Laver Arena before Victoria state’s six million residents went into a snap five-day coronavirus lockdown at midnight.
Fritz was on his way to levelling the five-set clash with an injured Djokovic when the players where told to leave the court as marshals ensured spectators left.
“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, in the middle of the fourth set,” he said.
“That shouldn’t be a thing at a Grand Slam.
“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.”
The boisterous fans in the stadium were largely behind Fritz and sometimes jeering Djokovic, who despite winning eight Australian Open titles on Rod Laver Arena has never been fully embraced.
Fritz said having no fans affected him, although he went on to win the set before collapsing in the fifth.
“I guess not having fans there did feel like (it) hurt me because they were kind of pushing for me,” he said.
The five-day lockdown, during which fans are barred and players go into a biosecure “bubble”, follows an outbreak of the highly contagious UK coronavirus strain stemming from a Melbourne airport hotel.
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