The Australian Open will continue without supporters after Victoria announced a five-day lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

This year's delayed Australian Open had started on Monday with a limited amount of fans - capped at 30,000 per day at Melbourne Park - due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Victorian government announced a new lockdown on Friday to control an outbreak of the UK coronavirus strain, state premier Daniel Andrews said.

Victoria's new state-wide restrictions will be introduced from 11.59pm on Friday - with reigning men's champion Novak Djokovic still scheduled to close out the day - until Wednesday.

"Any number of other large and small professional sport events, they will function essentially as a workplace," Andrews told reporters. "But they will not function as an entertainment event, because there will be no crowds.

"And the workforce will be the minimum that is needed in order for that to be COVID-safe and safe in lots of other contexts."

In response, the Australian Open released a statement while tournament director Craig Tiley insisted the slam will continue.

"Tennis Australia continues to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone," the Australian Open said in a statement.

"The Victorian government has announced a five day lockdown commencing at 11:59pm on Friday. Australian Open sessions today and tonight will continue as planned with COVIDSafe protocols in place.

"We are notifying ticketholders, players and staff that there will be no fans onsite at the AO for five days, commencing from Saturday 13 February.

"Full refunds will be available for anyone who has tickets for these sessions and they will be advised on how to apply as soon as possible.  

"The AO broadcast-only contingency plan will commence from Saturday 13 February until restrictions are lifted. Play will continue uninterrupted on the broadcast, albeit without spectators onsite."

The Australian Open was due to get underway in January, but the COVID-19 crisis forced the year's first slam to be pushed back until February.

The lead-in tournaments across the ATP and WTA Tours took place behind closed doors in Melbourne.

The Toronto Raptors will play the remainder of their 2020-21 home games at Tampa Bay's Amalie Arena due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

The Raptors – who won their first NBA Championship in 2019 – announced in November that they would be based in Tampa for the first half of the season, due to border restrictions and public safety measures in place between Canada and the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the pandemic and such restrictions still ongoing, Toronto have now taken the decision to remain in Florida for the rest of the season.

"Florida has been really welcoming to us and we're so grateful for the hospitality we've found in Tampa and at Amalie – we're living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here," Raptors president Masai Ujiri said, also referring to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' recent Super Bowl triumph.

"But home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto. We think often of our fans, of our Scotiabank Arena family, and all those we are missing back home, and we can't wait until we can all be together again."

The Raptors, along with the rest of the NBA teams, are set to find out their schedule for the second half of the season in the coming days.

Toronto are fifth in the Eastern Conference, with Nick Nurse's team having won five of their last six games.

The body in charge of France's football leagues has called for urgent government support to help the sport survive its financial crisis.

The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) on Tuesday called for a meeting with authorities to establish an "emergency support plan" to safeguard the future of professional French clubs.

It said collective losses of more than €1billion meant "the survival of the professional football industry is at stake".

The stark warning came in the wake of the collapse of the television channel Telefoot Chaine, which broadcast for the final time last week.

Mediapro, which operated the channel, had struck a lucrative five-year deal with the LFP for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 broadcast rights, but that agreement was cancelled in December after less than six months.

The LFP agreed a new deal with Canal Plus last week but, with the reduced broadcast earnings and the impact of behind-closed-doors matches during the coronavirus pandemic, it is forecasting overall revenue of €759.1m - almost €0.5billion less than had been budgeted by clubs for 2020-21.

"In this context, the measures already taken by the government for the current season last November have unfortunately turned out to be insufficient or inappropriate in terms of enabling the continuation of activity for the industry," the LFP said in a statement. "Especially since these announcements did not take into account the continuation of the closed-door matches in 2021.

"Consequently, the LFP requests an emergency meeting with the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery, and the Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports to receive the leaders of the LFP and a delegation of clubs to build an emergency support plan.

"There is no question here of asking the state to compensate for the drop in TV rights, or the failure of Mediapro. On these issues, the clubs have already made great efforts to adapt to this major drop in income, both through salary negotiations with their players and through the reforms that the LFP is preparing to ensure its future. However, it is essential that the state participates in helping professional clubs and their shareholders to overcome the emergencies that the COVID-19 crisis has generated.

"The survival of the professional football industry is at stake, and above all of a cultural and economic heritage that cannot be allowed to go up in smoke today."

Thomas Lemar and Hector Herrera are the latest Atletico Madrid players to test positive for coronavirus.

Atletico confirmed last week that Joao Felix and new signing Moussa Dembele returned positive test results in consecutive days, ruling them out of Monday's LaLiga visit of Celta Vigo.

Now their midfield and attacking options have been further depleted, with Herrera and Lemar immediately beginning periods of isolation.

A club statement read: "Our players Hector Herrera and Thomas Lemar underwent antigen tests prior to the match against Celta Vigo according to the LaLiga protocol, giving a positive result for COVID-19, which was later confirmed with the relevant tests PCR.

"Both players remain isolated in their respective homes, strictly complying with the recommendations of the health authorities and LaLiga protocol."

Atletico did not provide any further information regarding their respective conditions.

Lemar and Herrera could miss as many as three games, with Atletico facing Celta, Granada and Levante in the next 10 days.

Kevin Durant will miss the Brooklyn Nets' clash with Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Durant was in doubt for Saturday's showdown in Philadelphia following an unusual series of events on Friday.

The Nets star was named in the starting line-up to face the Toronto Raptors before being removed because of the league's health and safety protocols.

Durant was allowed to enter the game in the opening quarter, only to then exit in the third period – again due to coronavirus protocols – as the Nets lost 123-117.

Former MVP Durant finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes against the Raptors.

Prior to Saturday's matchup against the 76ers (16-7), Nets head coach Steve Nash said Durant is eligible to re-join the team on Friday.

Durant has been averaging 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game for the Nets (14-10) this season.

 

Steve Nash believes Kevin Durant will miss Saturday's clash against the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Brooklyn Nets head coach is unsure how long the star will be out.

In an unusual series of events, Durant was named in the Nets' starting lineup to face the Toronto Raptors on Friday before being removed due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

But Durant was allowed to enter the game in the first quarter, only to then exit in the third – again due to coronavirus protocols – as the Nets fell 123-117.

Nash said he was unsure how long Durant, who missed three games in January due to the health and safety protocols, would be sidelined.

"I don't believe he'll come to Philly, but I don't think that necessarily they've decided," he told a news conference.

"It's just a contact-tracing procedure and it's to be determined how much time he'll have to miss, but we're just gathering information still at this point."

Durant finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes against the Raptors.

Nash admitted he got distracted by Durant's situation as the Nets slipped to 14-10.

"If I'm honest, I probably didn't handle it great, just trying to juggle all those balls, all that different information, what does it mean," he said.

"I probably got a little distracted about thinking what it means long-term for our team. We've already been playing guys a lot of minutes and if Kevin's not playing are we going to run the remaining guys too many minutes.

"Maybe I got a little bit distracted by the big picture but that's the way this year's going to be. We're going to be in and out of COVID situations and minute pile-ups and all the difficulties that we're going to face this year and it's going to be similar for everyone.

"We just have to try to adapt and be able to bounce back from little setbacks like this and unfortunately we couldn't bounce back to win the game, but we've got to be able to bounce back this next week and play well and keep getting better."

Kevin Durant left the Brooklyn Nets' clash against the Toronto Raptors in the third quarter due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Durant exited Friday's game after a strange sequence of events, which saw him come off the bench for the first time in his career.

The 2014 NBA MVP was initially named to start but was later removed from the lineup.

Durant was then cleared to enter the game late in the first quarter, with ESPN reporting he had gone through contact tracing.

But his outing ended in the third quarter, again due to COVID-19 protocols.

"Free me," Durant tweeted.

Durant had eight points, six rebounds and five assists in his 19 minutes on the court.

"It's tough to lose Kevin Durant twice in one night," Nets head coach Steve Nash told ESPN.

"It wasn't easy but we've got to be adaptable, this is the type of season it's going to be, we have a lot going on in our world. We've got a lot of guys who can step up."

Kevin Durant came off the bench for the first time in his NBA career after missing the start of the Brooklyn Nets' clash against the Toronto Raptors due to health and safety protocols.

Durant was initially named to start on Friday, but was later removed from the lineup due to the protocols.

ESPN reported the 2014 NBA MVP was going through contact tracing, and Durant ended up entering the game late in the first quarter.

After 866 NBA starts, it marked the first time he had come off the bench.

The Nets trailed 34-23 after the first quarter against the Raptors.

Pep Guardiola expressed disappointment with Jurgen Klopp's attempt at pre-match mind games after the Liverpool manager falsely claimed Manchester City had "a two-week break for COVID reasons".

Champions Liverpool host Premier League leaders City on Sunday, where Guardiola's men have the chance to go 10 points clear of Klopp's side with a game in hand if they can claim a first win at Anfield since 2003.

Both men addressed the media on Friday, with Klopp speaking first and suggesting a coronavirus outbreak within the City squad between Christmas and new year actually helped their title bid.

Asked about Guardiola's recently repeated mantra that his team - currently on a 20-match unbeaten run across all competitions - are playing better because they have managed to "run less" in possession, Klopp focused his attention upon the spike in infections that saw City's scheduled December 28 trip to Everton postponed.

"The more you keep the ball, the less you have to run, probably. We didn't have a break," he said.

"I think City had a two-week break for COVID reasons. It's really tough. It's a tough year, season; for some teams, it looks like lesser but, for us, for the reasons you know, it's tough."

In reality, City had a seven-day break between their 2-0 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day and a January 3 trip to Chelsea, where a squad heavily depleted by a raft of players being forced to self-isolate secured an impressive 3-1 win.

Having started his own briefing later than scheduled, Guardiola opted to respond initially with heavy sarcasm.

"He made a mistake, it was two months off or three months off. Four months we had off. That is why we are in top form right now," he said.

"Jurgen has to see the calendar again. We had COVID, we had one week and we played with 14 players at Stamford Bridge, Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it was three or four weeks.

"Tomorrow when I see Jurgen I'll say to him, 'How many weeks or days were we off?'"

Guardiola famously endured a tempestuous back and fourth with Jose Mourinho when the pair were in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid a decade ago - an affair he was perhaps referencing when stating he held Klopp, whom he also competed against in the Bundesliga, to higher standards.

"I'm surprised," he said. "I thought Jurgen was not that type of manager like other ones [for whom] it is usual to do it. I didn't expect that comment. From him, I didn't expect it.

"He knows it’s not true, come on! Nobody in the Premier League has had two weeks off, everyone knows. In some situation you do it [mind games] for a purpose, but I did not expect he will do it."

Liverpool have lost their past two home games 1-0 to Burnley and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Nevertheless, Anfield remains something of a final frontier for Guardiola as City boss, having lost four and drawn one of his five visits to the red side of Stanley Park.

"They are always an incredibly tough team and remain a tough squad," he said.

"They know the process, the skills, the routines and methodology they do offensively. No change.

"They are aggressive and will be more aggressive than ever, I'm pretty sure. They'll rest really well after the game against Brighton and they'll recover in these two weeks off and they will be ready."

City remain without Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring), Nathan Ake (muscular) and Sergio Aguero, who has endured a prolonged absence after testing positive for coronavirus. He is expected to return in a few weeks.

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic could face Dominic Thiem in a mouth-watering semi-final after being handed a tough path to success at Melbourne Park, where Serena Williams will continue her quest for a 24th grand slam singles title.

The Australian Open draw took place on Friday, with world number one Djokovic set to play Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the opening round of the year's first major tournament.

Amid coronavirus concerns in Melbourne, where Swiss great Roger Federer is absent, Djokovic has set his sights on a ninth crown and 18th major success, but the top seed's title defence is far from straightforward.

Djokovic could face Gael Monfils (fourth round) and sixth seed Alexander Zverev (quarter-final) en route to a possible semi-final against US Open champion and third seed Thiem.

The Serb overcame Thiem in a five-set thriller in last year's Australian Open final, before the latter broke through for his maiden major trophy at Flushing Meadows.

Djokovic could then meet second seed and 20-time major champion Rafael Nadal in a blockbuster final – he blitzed the Spanish superstar in the 2019 Australian Open decider but lost in three one-sided sets in their previous meeting in the French Open final.

Nadal will go head-to-head with another Serb in the first round – Laslo Djere – while Stefanos Tsitsipas could await in the quarters, with 2019 US Open final opponent Daniil Medvedev also on the same side of the draw.

Meanwhile, Williams' bid for a record-equalling 24th slam will begin against German Laura Siegemund.

The 39-year-old Williams has been stuck on 23 majors since winning the Australian Open in 2017 – losing finals at Wimbledon (2018 and 2019) and the US Open (2018 and 2019).

World number one and local hope Ashleigh Barty will meet Montenegro's Danka Kovinic in round one and defending champion Sofia Kenin faces Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis.

The last 16 could see Williams clash with Aryna Sabalenka, Barty meet Petra Martic, Kenin tackle Johanna Konta and three-time major champion Naomi Osaka do battle with last year's runner-up Garbine Muguruza.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said there were no plans to change the schedule for the major amid coronavirus concerns.

More than 500 players and officials were forced into isolation after a worker at an Australian Open quarantine hotel tested positive for COVID-19.

It led to play at lead-up events in Melbourne on Thursday being called off and sparked fears around the year's first grand slam, which is scheduled to begin on Monday.

But Tiley is hoping play is back underway on Friday and said he expects the Australian Open to start as scheduled.

"The intention is to start the Australian Open on Monday so there's no intention of changing the time for the Australian Open," he told a news conference.

Tiley added: "We're absolutely confident the Australian Open is going to go ahead.

"We know that we've got a period now that we've got to work through with those 507 players and their staff, 160 players actually, that need a test and we fully expect the probability is very low that there's going to be any issue.

"We fully expect them all to test negative and then we continue with play tomorrow like we originally planned and if we have to go through this again we'll continue to go through this again and we've got another three and a half weeks of tennis, we've got a lot of tennis to play and fully expect to keep the original schedule once we get past today."

The draw for the Australian Open was pushed back to Friday, while crowds are still expected to be in attendance for the major.

Sri Lanka's tour of the West Indies could be rescheduled after head coach Mickey Arthur and batsman Lahiru Thirimanne tested positive for coronavirus.

Arthur and opener Thirimanne are following government health protocols after discovering they had contracted COVID-19 in the latest round of testing on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka are due to head out to the Caribbean this month, but the tour may be put back.

A Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) statement released on Wednesday said: "Following PCR Tests carried out on the provisional squad, which was preparing to take part in the national team's upcoming tour of the West Indies, head coach Mickey Arthur and Sri Lanka player Lahiru Thirimanne have tested positive for Covid-19.  

"They were detected following PCR Tests carried out yesterday for the entire 36-member squad, along with the coaching staff, net bowlers, and the HPC Staff.  

"Immediately upon identification, both Mickey Arthur and Lahiru Thirimanne have been directed to follow the government’s health protocol laid out on COVIDI-19.  

"The 36-member group commenced practices on the 28th January, in three groups and at different time periods, as a precautionary health measure. 

"Considering the current situation, SLC is exploring the possibility of rescheduling the Tour of the West Indies, which was scheduled to commence on 20th Feb, 2021.

"In the meantime, Sri Lanka Cricket will continue with normal operations, adhering to the stipulated health protocols in all its centers."

Sri Lanka were whitewashed 2-0 by England in a recent series in Galle.

 

Bayern Munich are still waiting on Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez to return negative coronavirus tests so they can resume first-team duties.

The midfield duo are set to be absent once again for Friday's Bundesliga match at Hertha Berlin after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference, head coach Hansi Flick confirmed Martinez's spell of self-isolation is set to end on Wednesday, with Goretzka having to wait until Friday.

After the Hertha game, European champions Bayern will fly to Qatar to commence their Club World Cup campaign.

"With Javi and Leon it is the case that we do a test after the quarantine, I can't comment on that because I don't have the results," he said.

"Javi has to take the test and then it will be determined if he still has the virus in his body. We have to wait from day to day.

"We also know with Leon that it takes a few days longer. He also has to be tested, everything will depend on that."

With or without Goretzka and Martinez, Flick conceded the Club World Cup will place an additional strain upon Bayern within an already condensed schedule.

"Qatar is very stressful, we have the flight and the games on Mondays and Thursdays. It was clear to us that we would not have time for proper training," he said.

"The team, coaching team and club want to win the next title, we all know that it is not easy.

"In addition to getting some vitamin D [sunshine], it is also a change from everyday life, even if the journey is dangerous.

"We want the sixth title in a year, the team would make history."

Flick had some words of encouragement for Niklas Sule, the defender who has only started two of Bayern's past six Bundesliga matches and was recently linked with a move to Chelsea.

"Niklas is an absolute option, whether in the centre or full-back position," he said of the Germany international, who suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament last season.

"He did well at Schalke [last month's 4-0 win where Sule played at right-back]. Don't forget that he had a long injury.

"Niklas is a fast player who is serene on the ball and helps shape the game from behind. Given his size, he has absolute strength and I'm glad he's on our team.

"We will see how everything develops and how he sees his future. I am satisfied with his development, you can rely on him."

Preparations for the Australian Open were dealt a fresh blow on Wednesday when a member of hotel staff tested positive for coronavirus, although Victoria's premier insists the tournament is not under threat at this stage.

A 26-year-old worker at the Grand Hyatt Hotel returned a negative test at the end of his previous shift on January 29 but subsequently developed symptoms and tested positive on Wednesday.

As a result, Melbourne and the wider Victoria region has reverted to its New Year's Eve restrictions of gatherings at home being limited to 15 people and masks having to be worn in public indoor spaces.

In terms of the specific impact upon participants in the Australian Open, players, officials and support staff who were staying at the hotel during this period must now isolate and undertake a COVID-19 test.

The number of tournament-related personnel classed as "casual contacts" related to the incident is estimated to be between 500 and 600.

Nevertheless, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference he was confident the Australian Open would go ahead as planned, even though the requirement that some players isolate and test could have an impact upon warm-up tournaments that are ongoing at Melbourne Park.

"There's about 500-600 people that are either players and officials and others who are casual contacts," Andrews said.

"They will be isolating until they get a negative test and that work will be done tomorrow so it might have an impact on tomorrow's play in the lead-up event, but at this stage there's no impact to the tournament proper.

"That's important to us, but the issue we're most focused on is much broader. That's about public health and public safety and that's why we've really pounced on this."

The Australian Open is scheduled to run from February 8-21.

Joao Felix has tested positive for COVID-19, adding to Diego Simeone's problems ahead of Atletico Madrid's meeting with Celta Vigo.

Portugal international Joao Felix is self-isolating at home, as team-mates Mario Hermoso and Yannick Carrasco have been doing since Friday.

A brief Atletico statement read: "Joao Felix has tested positive for COVID-19. The striker is isolating at home, in compliance with the health authorities' guidelines and LaLiga protocols."

Simeone's men have a 10-point advantage at the top of LaLiga and welcome Celta to the Wanda Metropolitano on Monday. They then travel to Granada the following Saturday.

Hermoso and Carrasco are unlikely to return for the meeting with Celta, while Kieran Trippier will be absent due to suspension.

Joao Felix marked his return to the starting line-up against Valencia on January 24 by scoring his first goal in almost two months and setting up another, leading Atletico from a goal down to a 3-1 victory.

The 21-year-old has been left out of the first XI eight times in LaLiga this season and Atletico have won all those matches.

However, when Joao Felix starts they average two more shots (12.1 to 10.0) and their goals-per-game ratio improves from 1.9 to 2.3.

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