The 2021 Australian Open stared on Monday, but the "Happy Slam" was missing the buzzing throngs of excited fans walking along the Yarra River. The mood was still upbeat, but the thin crowd was a clear indication that despite being allowed in Melbourne Park, the locals are still being cautious amid the novel coonavirus pandemic.

The fact is, fans are simply happy that the Australian Open is taking place, even if they have to watch it safely at home. The State of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, has had one of the toughest set of restrictions and lockdowns throughout the pandemic. As a result, residents are largely able to return safely to normal life, compared to most of the rest of the world.

Australian Open
At the Australian Open, a testing blitz revealed no new coronavirus cases, meaning the tournament can go ahead AFP / David Gray

All of their efforts led to the possibility of staging the Australian Open this year, despite numerous setbacks during the transport and quarantine of the participants.

The 17,922 visitors on opening day was a mere fraction of the usual turnout, especially on a day that featured the likes of World number one Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and local bet Nick Kyrgios.

Las year before the pandemic broke out across the globe, 64,387 spectators enjoyed the opening day at Melbourne Park.

Regardless of the thin crowd, having spectators at all is a big achievement for the Australian Open organisers. The event started three weeks later than originally scheduled, with players having had to fly in on chartered flights. rigorous testing and a mandatory two-week quarantine was also imposed. Even with the restrictions, a number of COVID-19 cases were detected. This shows just how easily a single misstep can lead to a pocket outbreak.

As the days pass, more fans will likely feel at ease about coming to watch live matches. More people are expected to turn up in the second week of the Grand Slam.

The stands will slowly get more crowded, and the entire sporting community will be waiting with bated breath to see if the event will be a resounding success or a cautionary tale.

Australian Open
Australian Open organisers said between 25,000 and 30,000 tennis fans will be allowed to watch the season's opening Grand Slam AFP / DAVID GRAY