The first day of the 2021 Australian Open brought fans back to a major sporting event, but not quite in the numbers expected, especially as Serena Williams opened her campaign at Melbourne Park.
Capacity has been capped at 30,000 due to coronavirus control measures and fans are having to segregate in different areas of Melbourne Park and wear masks.
However, even so there were a distinct lack of crowds for the opening match on Rod Laver Arena as Naomi Osaka beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 6-2.
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And a crowd of only hundreds were present as Serena, going in search of her 24th Grand Slam, enjoyed a 6-1 6-1 win over Germany's Laura Siegemund.
Spectator Robert Norvill, 64, told The Age newspaper: "I’ve been wanting to come for a long time. I’m afraid of coronavirus because I’m 64, but I’m not going to let it ruin my life.
"I’m finding it a funny thing that the locals haven’t come, are they scared about what’s going on?"
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However, even if crowds were lighter than expected, for players who had to contend with quarantine regulations upon entering the country, it was presumably a relief to perform on a major stage again.
"This is a good start, definitely vintage Serena," Serena said. "It's definitely good, I think I'm good at pacing myself at a Grand Slam. This is amazing.
"Last year was very crazy for the world and to be able to do what I love and come out and compete and play a Grand Slam after the last 12 months makes me appreciate the moment even more."
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