Australian Open organisers were forced to give away tickets for the evening session at Melbourne Park today after a dismal opening attendance.

Fans who paid to attend Monday’s day session on centre court received a text message at 4pm asking them to return to the venue for tonight’s matches.

Earlier a near-empty stadium greeted Serena Williams on her debut on centre court.

And hardly anyone was in the arena to watch Naomi Osaka beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Crowds are capped at 30,000 and masked spectators forced to segregate in isolated areas across Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and John Caine Arena.

Large corporate marques remained empty late into the afternoon as the few people there left the venue.

Day one of the Australian Open is traditionally held during January – there holiday season – but children are back at school and most businesses have struggled through strict lockdowns for months.

And many Victorians believe the event should never have gone ahead.