Fans attending the Australian Open were ordered to leave the stadium midway through the match between Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz as Melbourne entered a five-day Covid-19 lockdown.
The match involving the world number one unexpectedly stretched into five sets, but the newly-imposed Covid-19 restrictions meant fans in the stands were not allowed to see the culmination as the clocked ticked towards midnight.
Instead, supporters were asked to leave in the fourth set to enable them to get home before the lockdown rule came into force.
Melbourne will go on a five-day lockdown as part of measures applied by the authorities to battle the spread of the virus linked to the highly contagious UK variant.
Starting at midnight all public gatherings, home auctions, weddings and religious gatherings will be banned in Melbourne.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced the lockdown for the state, starting at midnight on Friday, calling it a “short, sharp circuit breaker.”
“We must assume that there are further cases in the community than we have positive results for, and that it is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of these last 12 months,” Andrews said.
Djokovic struggled to earn a spot in the fourth round, surviving a five-set thriller to defeat his lower-ranked opponent.
The Serbian star got off to a solid start, winning the two opening sets 7-6, 6-4 before allowing Fritz to revive the intrigue and make a stunning comeback as Djokovic required treatment in his right abdominal area in the second set.
The 27th seed American eyed the chance to defeat defending champion Djokovic, winning two sets in a row 6-3, 6-4 to send the game into a final set.
In the fourth set the players were given an extra break after spectators were ordered to leave the arena when the clock struck 11.30 pm.
Djokovic, who was visibly struggling on the court, seemed to have benefited from the enforced pause as he regained composure to win the set 6-2.
However, the Serbian star admitted he’s not sure he’ll be able to play his next match against Milos Raonic due to the injury and may be forced to bow out early despite chasing an 18th Grand Slam prize.