MELBOURNE – Hey, Australian Open TV viewers: The crowd's loud clapping and mid-match chatter you hear on the telecasts are not real.
With all spectators banned from Melbourne Park by the Victoria state government for the time being because of a five-day lockdown in response to new COVID-19 cases in the area, Tennis Australia decided to artificially amplify the ambiance.
Or as the tournament organizers phrased it in a statement issued Sunday: “We are looking to do what we can to enhance the AO coverage without the crowds."
So when Serena Williams delivered one of her nine aces during her fourth-round victory, it might have seemed from afar as if that shot were greeted by raucous applause.
But Williams herself — and her opponent, Aryna Sabalenka — couldn't hear a thing, other than from the handful of credentialed player guests allowed in the seats.
It's similar to what was done for broadcasts from the U.S. Open in September, when fans were barred throughout the tournament because of the coronavirus pandemic. In New York, though, the manufactured sound initially was played live in the stadium, before eventually being cut off at the site and only used via TV.
The timing wasn't always perfectly spot-on, with the fake cheering occasionally sprouting up before a point actually ended.
Also piped in to the television feeds for the contests played in Rod Laver Arena were the sort of murmuring that might emanate from thousands of folks chatting with each other between points.