The continuing reality of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is forcing Australian Open officials into a re-think as they work out solutions for somehow playing the first Grand Slam of 2021 in January.
Melbourne’s Age reported on Thursday that the current thinking is to hold a “half -strength” edition in the city currently the virus hotspot for all of the country. with local – and not international – spectators cut to around 400,0000 over the fortnight from the usual 800,000.
Planners have to work around the inconvenience of Australia’s near-total shutdown of air traffic into the island nation as well as state borders and the reality of the mandatory 14-day quarantine for any arrivals.
“I would be jumping up and down if that was the result,” powerful TD Craig Tiley said of the 50 per cent plan. “That’s our aspiration….”anything is possible.”
Tiley said that Tennis Australia is also working to try and stage the preliminary ATP Cup – played in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney this year – by perhaps shrinking it to a single site.
The 24-nation, USD 24 million event has become a big money-spinner for the federation and it must be assumed staging it would be a priority.
“We’re working closely with the ATP, and the players,” Tiley said. “It’s a great event. Year one was such a smash hit that we would love to see more of it.”
Open officials confirmed that players traveling to Australian would spend their first two weeks inside a “bio-bubble” until cleared and would then be allowed to play or practice in the country.
“If players (land) in Melbourne they’ll stay in Melbourne for 14 days and we’ll create a bubble between the hotel, transport and the courts. They can’t leave that environment,” Tiley said. .
“The idea is that in whatever city they arrive, they’ll quarantine for 14 days in that city. But it won’t be sitting in a hotel room by themselves.
“We’ll create a quarantine bubble that will be highly secure and monitored and measured and tested with more frequency than the general public.”