Fears that locals will turn their backs on the forthcoming Australian Open were heightened on Saturday as the multiple build-up events degenerated into a shambles.
The final of one of the women’s tournaments was abandoned altogether as the tactical-looking withdrawals of former champions continued amid a backlog of matches ahead of the Open’s Monday start.
A combination of factors are working against normally buoyant ticket sales, not helped by a succession of stars choosing to save themselves for the main event.
For British men’s number one Dan Evans it has been full steam ahead, and this morning he was due to play the final of the Murray River Open, one of six tournaments laid on to try and get the players in the best shape possible for the next fortnight.
The 30 year-old Midlander was going for his first ATP title when he faced rising Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime. Evans comfortably saw off Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-2 6-2 in the semi-final.
However, only 40 spectators were in the stands to watch, in line with a build-up week that has been marked by acres of empty seats around the huge Melbourne Park complex.
Tennis Australia will be hoping that normally sports-mad Melburnians are saving themselves for the two-week extravaganza, which begins on Sunday at midnight UK time.
The host governing body have gone to huge lengths and expense to stage warm-ups for the players, and might be entitled to feel that no good deed goes unpunished.
Saturday’s schedule was affected by three former winners pulling out of their matches citing minor injuries: Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka. Already two male ex-champions, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal, had withdrawn from matches they were expected to play for the same reason.