Australian Open bosses will try to recoup a tiny proportion of an expected huge loss as ticket sales for the rescheduled Grand Slam begin this week.

An online marketplace is due to sputter into life on Wednesday, two days before Christmas.

The Open squeezed out a deal last week with the Victoria State government to hold the quarantined competition under strict health conditions; it will begin three weeks late on February 8 to allow time for a mandatory 14-day foreign player hotel-room lockdown.

It remains to be seen how the planning will proceed after the latest COVID-19 outbreak on Sydney’s northern beaches which has resulted in another state border shutdown with New South Wales.

Nevertheless, preparations go on with perhaps some doubts as tennis struggles to get to its feet after a disaster of a 2020 season.

Officials in Melbourne are hoping to allow around 400,000 fans – half of last January’s numbers – through the gates for the diminished tennis fortnight.

“It depends on how we organise the site,” TD Craig Tiley told local media.

“We had 840,000 people last year so if you take 50 percent off . . . it’s likely to be less than half that depending on how we organise the site.

“This is not a year that we’re going to try and beat numbers, this is a year we’re going to make sure we deliver maximum economic impact to the city.”

Once inside Melbourne Park, ticketholders will be separated through reserved seats and social distancing around the grounds, with family groups allowed to sit together.

Should any fresh virus outbreak emerge, plans are on the shelf to host the event without crowds, in the style of September’s US Open.

“If there are challenges in the community and the government isn’t comfortable with people being together then we would have an event without crowds,” Tiley added.

“We don’t expect that to be the case.”

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