(Reuters) - The Australian Open set a Grand Slam attendance record with more than 900,000 spectators visiting over three weeks, organisers said on Tuesday, despite the absence of some big-name players and schedule disruptions due to rain.
A record 839,192 fans flocked to Melbourne Park from Jan. 16-29 for the first tournament in two years free of COVID-19 restrictions, beating the previous mark of 812,174 set in January 2020.
The figures eclipse last year's attendance numbers at other Grand Slam main draws - 515,164 visited Wimbledon, 613,500 were at the French Open and 776,120 went to the U.S. Open.
Over 60,000 also watched the qualifying events in Melbourne, bringing the total up to 902,312.
The tournament, missing the retired Serena Williams, Roger Federer and last year's homegrown champion Ash Barty, broke its single-day attendance mark with 94,854 fans visiting on Jan. 21. The previous record was 93,709 set in 2020.
"It was reported that we didn't have the greats any more, that it was going to be terrible. But people just want to be entertained," Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley told the Melbourne Age.
"They want to have some fun, and tennis is a great option for them, and it's become a summer thing to do for Melburnians and for Australians and also for our guests from around the world."
Tiley has set his sights on breaching the one million mark next year.
"This year was the start of it," Tiley said. "It's going to be a three-week extravaganza."
Novak Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday to win his 10th Australian Open crown, drawing level with Rafa Nadal on 22 majors, and reclaim the world number one ranking
Aryna Sabalena won her first Grand Slam title with victory over Elena Rybakina on Saturday.
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)