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Australian Open bans fans amid coronavirus lockdown

Tennis fans will be prohibited from attending the Australian Open as the state of Victoria prepares for a five-day lockdown in response to new COVID-19 cases.

Why it matters: The lockdown comes after an outbreak at a Holiday Inn near Melbourne Airport that was being used to house returned travelers.

Driving the news: The cluster of cases linked to the hotel grew to 13 on Thursday night, with five new cases emerging, per AP.

  • As of Friday morning, the state's active case tally was 19.

Where it stands: Life had returned to near normalcy in the state of Victoria, with bars packed full of unmasked patrons. But now, over 6 million Victorians will only be able to leave home for essential shopping, work, exercise and caregiving.

  • Schools will be closed Monday through Wednesday, gatherings are off-limits, and masks will be required everywhere.

Yes, but: Tennis players are classified as "workers" and will be permitted to continue their matches. The minimum number of staff required to safely run the event will also be present, while everyone else will be asked to work remotely.

The backdrop: The Australian Open had hoped to welcome nearly 400,000 fans and avoid a "bubble" by having players "hard quarantine" upon their arrival.

  • Tennis Australia faced backlash for this, but the strategy had worked so far, with players expressing gratitude for the opportunity to play in front of fans.
  • Now, the tournament will continue without spectators, just like September's U.S. Open in New York.

On the court, Australian Nick Kyrgios nearly upset No. 3 Dominic Thiem in front of an electric crowd that entered lockdown right after the match ended (around 7am ET) — and knew they wouldn't be back for at least five days.

  • The match went five sets and was as thrilling as it gets, with lots of underhand serves from Kyrgios and a ton of grit from Thiem.
  • Serena Williams advanced to the fourth round where she'll play No. 8 Aryna Sabalenka for the first time.

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