With the viability of the Australian Open now debatable after government COVID-19 hesitation, the ATP has issued a red alert to top players.
While tournament boss Craig Tiley painted a rosy picture of an all-go Grand Slam in Melbourne from January 18, that dream scenario was knocked back 24 hours later this week by Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews.
The State premier said nothing had been decided – especially allowing up to a thousand or more international players and limited teams into the locked-down country.
After throwing cold water on the full-steam-ahead plans, the hard-line poli would not be drawn on national visa possibilities for players, another potential roadblock.
International travel – except for returning citizens – has been off the table for months; Melbourne’s airport is closed to international flights while some state internal borders are also blocked.
With a series of perhaps fatal roadblocks looming, the ATP alerted top players including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and defending champion Novak Djokovic to the impending drama.
The possible doomsday scenario even included also included the possibility of the government moving the dates of the Grand Slam out of the traditional school holiday summer period.
“In discussions with Tennis Australia over the past 24 hours, we have been informed there are some new challenges around the previously planned arrival dates for players and team members,” the men’s governing body said.
“We continue to work with Tennis Australia on confirming plans for January, and we will provide an update as soon as more information in the coming days.
“We understand there is uncertainty about the start of the 2021 season, and we are working as hard as possible to deliver the best possible calendar of events to players.”
With the supply of ball kids totally dependent on holding the major during the summer holidays, moving the dates would be no easy logistical job – not to mention the effect a swap might have on an uncertain 2021 tournament calendar.
Tiley and the Open had been negotiating for a limited lockdown for arriving players, who would remain in their hotel rooms for the 14-day quarantine period but would be allowed out in a bio-bubble to train during that period.
Without that guarantee, this edition of the Grand Slam could be in considerable danger through a lack of international player participation.