“It’s so good to see folks.”
That was Naomi Osaka, the three-time Grand Slam champion, moments after her first-round win on Monday afternoon on the Australian Open. She stood at a microphone on the court docket at Rod Laver Enviornment and peered up at a crowd that appeared, if not regular, then one thing prefer it.
That was the way it was on Monday throughout the grounds of Melbourne Park, the place worldwide sports activities returned, nevertheless quickly, to one thing prefer it was earlier than the pandemic.
Spectators lined up for tickets. They waited in safety traces, contemplated whether or not to order burgers or fish and chips, and determined what number of $13 beers they may abdomen.
The event may safely happen now solely as a result of the Grand Slam tennis season occurs to start out in a rustic that has arguably controlled Covid-19 better than anyplace else, because of months of enforced lockdowns, closed borders, and thorough testing and speak to tracing. Simply 909 folks in Australia, which has a inhabitants of greater than 25 million, have died of Covid-19. The nation has averaged a half-dozen instances a day through the previous two weeks, practically all of them worldwide arrivals.
Compromises have been made at this 12 months’s occasion: Spectators are capped at 30,000 per day, about half the quantity that might often attend. However their roars had been appreciated greater than ever.
“That’s one of many largest motivations that we’ve, the supply the place we draw our vitality and energy and motivation,” mentioned Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1. “Particularly at my age and stage of my profession, I’m trying to feed off that vitality from the group.”