The popular Australian Open ground pass has been scrapped this year in a bid to prevent another COVID outbreak in Melbourne.
Melbourne Park will be split into three areas and spectators must buy seated tickets to each of the two stadiums, while the John Cain Arena will also have allocated seating and effectively replaces the ground pass.
Formerly known as Melbourne Arena or Hisense Arena, Nick Kyrgios also dubbed it “the people’s court” and the Australian superstar last year said it was his favourite place to play.
“This is probably my favourite court in the world, I always play here early on … I just feel super comfortable,” Nick Kyrgios during the 2020 Australian Open.
“You guys (talking to the crowd) are the best – I can feel the support.”
Tickets will be sold in ‘pods’ of up to six people and the COVIDSafe plan restricts fans from moving between the three areas on the same day.
“John Cain Arena has hosted some enthralling battles over the years and is a favourite destination for both fans and players,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said.
“We’ve worked hard to ensure the AO is still as accessible as possible, and by providing access to JCA and the JCA zone for Ground Pass prices is a bonus for fans.
“Some of the most memorable matches of the tournament are played on this court and fans will be able to enjoy some spectacular tennis this summer.”
The Australian Open starts on February 8 and tickets for the JC Arena will start at $49 for weekdays, $59 for weekends and $39 for children and concession card-holders.
Meanwhile, Ash Barty’s 11-month lay-off from competitive tennis will end when the world No.1 warms up for the Australian Open in the Melbourne Summer Series.
Barty, as well as men’s drawcard Kyrgios, will be among the stars in two WTA 500 and two ATP 250 tournaments that will be played at Melbourne Park from January 31 to February 6.
The Australian pair haven’t played a tournament since late February when Barty was a semi-finalist at the Qatar Open and Kyrgios made a first-round exit in Acapulco.
They both skipped last year’s US Open and the French Open, where Barty was set to defend her title, due to the threat of COVID-19.
Barty, 24, cited the health risks plus poor preparation when she was separated from her coach due to Australia’s border restrictions.
Kyrgios said he felt it was irresponsible to travel and play and spent the year training at his Canberra base.
The four tournaments, with prize money of more than $2.2 million, have been named to promote key regions of Victoria following last year’s bushfire and then pandemic.
Barty, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals last year, will face stiff competition with 49 of the world’s top 50 players committed to compete.
This includes 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams, world No.2 Simona Halep and defending Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.
Each WTA tournament will feature a 64-player draw, with the top-32 ranked players to be split across the two events and remaining players randomly drawn.
On the men’s side, the fields have already been divided into two ATP 250 tournaments, with many of the top-ranked players entered in the ATP Cup which will be played concurrently at Melbourne Park.
Kyrgios will play the Murray River Open, joining former Open champion Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov.
“Having 49 of the world’s top 50 women, and an outstanding men’s field commit for the Melbourne Summer Series is a huge bonus for fans and promises quality matches for players leading into the Australian Open,” said Tennis Australia head of major events Cameron Pearson.
“There’s no doubt this will be an historic week of tennis, and is the biggest-ever AO lead-in week we have seen in Australia.”
– with AAP