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MCG Ashes Test and Australian Open to have capacity crowds

By Sports Desk November 18, 2021

The MCG Ashes Test and the Australian Open will be watched by capacity crowds following the easing of coronavirus restrictions in Victoria.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has announced there will no longer be limits on gatherings in the state.

Andrews had revealed last month, when the latest lockdown ended, that he was hopeful at least 80,000 will be able to attend the Boxing Day Test.

Australia and England can now look forward to playing in front of a full house of 100,000 next month.

The first grand slam of the year, starting at Melbourne Park on January 17, is also set to be played without a cap on the number of spectators allowed in.

"Whether it's 100,000 people at the MCG on Boxing Day or a smaller group of people standing up at the … local pub, this is the COVID-normal that every Victorian has built," he said at a press conference.

Crowds for the 2021 Australian Open were limited to 30,000 people per day – around half capacity – prior to a snap lockdown being implemented during the tournament.

No more than 30,000 were permitted in the MCG for Australia's Boxing Day Test against India last year.

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  • Australian Open: Nadal's happiness not dependent on breaking grand slam record Australian Open: Nadal's happiness not dependent on breaking grand slam record

    Rafael Nadal's happiness does not depend on finishing his career with more grand slam titles than rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

    Nadal edged out Denis Shapovalov in a five-set epic on Tuesday to reach the Australian Open semi-finals.

    The Spaniard has only won the season's opening grand slam once, back in 2009. However, the field has opened up for him this year, with reigning champion Djokovic unable to compete and 40-year-old Federer taking his time to return from knee surgery.

    Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are all tied on 20 grand slams each, meaning the next of the trio to win a major will set a new record.

    While Nadal is hoping to go all the way in Melbourne, he insisted his career satisfaction does not depend on being the record holder.

    "The fact that we are equal at 20, the only thing that says is that we share an amazing [time] of the history of our sport, and for me it's a real honour to be part of it, without a doubt," he said.

    "I don't hope for anything. I just keep going. I am just enjoying playing tennis, as I said hundreds of times. Honestly, and from the bottom of my heart, I really don't [have certain expectations].

    "Of course, I want to keep winning, but more than because I want to achieve or I want to have more than the others, because I love what I am doing. I want to keep doing this as long as possible.

     

    "The last six months there have been a lot of doubts if I would be able to keep going. But now I feel good. We are in a position that I won a tournament, I'm in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, so that's amazing for me.

    "In terms of what can happen in the future, honestly I really don't care that much. I don't believe that my happiness, my future happiness depends on if I achieve one more grand slam than the others or if the others achieve more grand slams than me.

    "No, I am super satisfied and feel very lucky for all the things that happen to me. I have a way to approach life. You can't be always frustrated if the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a better phone or a better thing, no? I'm not going to be frustrated if Novak or Roger finishes their careers with more grand slams than me.

    "Let's enjoy the situation, every one of us, we did very special things in our sport. Let's enjoy that."

    Nadal lost to Djokovic in the Melbourne final in 2019. He has reached the showpiece match five times in total.

    The world number five had not played a competitive game since August last year before he returned to action earlier this month, winning the Melbourne Summer Set.

    Nadal had dropped just one set across the opening four rounds prior to his clash with Shapovalov, which finished 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3.

    "Yeah, I have been playing well," Nadal added. "To play at this level against a player like [Shapovalov], that he's one of the best players of the world, and see myself again competitive against these kinds of players, for me it's everything.

    "I'm just enjoying every single moment, try my best playing with the highest positive attitude possible and with the right spirit."

  • Australian Open: Barty unsure of Federer backhand comparison: 'We aren't even on the same page' Australian Open: Barty unsure of Federer backhand comparison: 'We aren't even on the same page'

    Ash Barty was told how her backhand slice has been compared to that of Roger Federer, but the women's top seed at the Australian Open is not convinced.

    Barty produced a stellar display as she saw off Jessica Pegula in Tuesday's quarter-final, losing just two games over the entire duel as the American proved no match.

    Her victory sets up a semi-final clash with another American, Madison Keys, with Barty aiming to reach the final of her home grand slam for the first time.

    Barty was ruthless against Pegula, firing 17 winners to her opponent's seven, while she won five of the nine break points available to her.

    But it was her backhand slice – one of the most recognisable shots in the women's game today – that was particularly notable to four-time grand slam winner Jim Courier in commentary, who compared Barty in this respect to Federer.

    Not that Barty was having any of it.

    "That's very kind from Jim," Barty told reporters afterwards. "I think everyone's shots are unique.

    "I think obviously Roger has one of the most exceptional slice backhands in the game. Mine's a long way off that. Absolutely, no stretch of the imagination we are even on the same page at all.

    "But I love to use my slice, I love to get creative with it, to use it offensively and defensively. Over my career I've learnt it is a weapon for me.

    "I try and use it when I have to. Sometimes I try and use it when it's my choice and I can be really, really aggressive with it.

    "But being able to use it with variety and have different options has been a massive part of my game through this last couple of years of my career."

    When Barty faces Keys in the semi-final, she will have already matched her personal best at the Australian Open – she also reached the last four in 2020.

    But the combination of being world number one for over two years and having two grand slams under her belt is helping her maintain focus this time around.

    "[It's] a bit of both. I think the process hasn't changed, but obviously the familiarity of knowing what to expect or expect how my body feels and almost be able to deal with those emotions a little bit better has probably changed and grown as I've become more experienced," she continued.

    "But the processes for us haven't changed regardless of whether it's a first round of the tournament, latter stage of a grand slam, it doesn't actually matter the process before we walk out on court.

    "But it's exciting, and I think also being able to embrace the excitement of being in with a chance to play deep in your home slam, it's pretty cool. I think going out there and enjoying that and really embracing that experience helps for sure."

  • Australian Open: Nadal refutes Shapovalov's claims of special treatment Australian Open: Nadal refutes Shapovalov's claims of special treatment

    Rafael Nadal shot down Denis Shapovalov's suggestion that he receives special treatment from umpires after an epic Australian Open quarter-final tussle.

    Shapovalov fell short of an incredible comeback against the record-chasing Nadal, who prevailed 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 after over four hours of action on Rod Laver Arena.

    The match was full of tension, with Shapovalov furious that Nadal escaped a time violation for taking too long between the first and second sets. 

    After umpire Carlos Bernardes refused to call time on Nadal's changeover, Shapovalov lost his temper, bursting out: "You guys are all corrupt."

    The players subsequently met at the net for a discussion, but Shapovalov was frustrated again when, before the deciding set, Nadal left the court for a medical timeout having struggled with a stomach issue, but then also had a toilet break.

    Asked in his post-match news conference if he felt Nadal received preferential treatment, Shapovalov said: "Of course. 100 per cent he does. 100 per cent."

    Shapovalov's comments were put to Nadal in the Spaniard's own media conference.

    "No. Not in that case, no, no," Nadal responded.

    "I really believe that on the court you don't deserve better treatment than the others. I really don't want it and I don't feel I have it.

    "Without a doubt, even as everybody knows, I have a huge respect for Carlos and I think he's a great umpire. Is it not the case that he was always hard with me on court, no?

    "I really believe that it's always in the mind that the top players get bigger advantages. And on the court it's not true. That's my feeling. I never feel that I had advantages on the court, and I really believe that he's wrong in that case.

     

    "I honestly feel sorry for him. I think he played a great match for a long time. Of course, it's tough to accept to lose a match like this, especially after I was feeling destroyed and probably he felt that, [but] then I was able to manage to win the match.

    "I wish him all the very best. He's young, I think we all make mistakes on our careers. I made a lot of mistakes too when I was younger, and probably he will understand later on after he thinks the proper way that probably he was not right today."

    Nadal also explained why he had to be given an extended amount of time in the changeover between the first and second sets.

    "I took some extra time at the end of the first set because I had to change everything there on the chair, in the changeover," he said.

    "I think in that case normally at the end of the sets the umpire gives you some extra time, especially under these very humid conditions to change the clothes, because that's obvious that you can't play with the clothes in the condition that I was [in].

    "I think in that moment Denis got p***** because the umpire called time and I needed like 30 seconds extra to keep changing my clothes.

    "I think it's fair that Carlos gave me this extra time at that moment. I think Carlos made a small mistake in calling time. Normally at the end of the set, the umpire looks around and waits a little bit to call time until the player is a little bit ready when he's changing, no?

    "Denis was wrong in that case. I understand that he just lost the set and in some way he wanted to keep playing quick, but I think he understands that normally you have some time to change your clothes."

    Nadal improved his record in grand slam quarter-finals to 36-9. He is now 7-7 in Australian Open quarter-finals after surviving the Shapovalov battle, far worse than his record at the French Open (14-1), Wimbledon (7-0) and US Open (8-1).

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