As if organisational troubles weren’t already tough, a forecast of all-day rain on Friday could deal another blow to the troubled Australian tennis summer.

The grim weather outlook has joined the queue of problems for organisers and state health officials after a positive COVID-19 test for a worker at the main player hotel forced cancellation of dozens of run-up event matches on Thursday.

Up to 600 people were tested as a result, with prospects for a narrow health escape looking somewhat promising. 

The Australian Open draw was pushed back from Thursday to Friday to await overnight test results.

Beleaguered TD Craig Tiley insisted on Thursday that the Grand Slam show would go on, but whispers are starting to mount about a possible crowd-free edition at Melbourne Park, where play is due to start on Monday.

Meanwhile, six tune-up events around the grounds this week will be under the cosh to somehow conclude by Sunday with all players having emerged only days ago from 14 days of quarantine.

South African Tiley put a smiley spin on the tense situation.

‘Obviously tomorrow we’ve got some challenging weather, so we’ve got to work around that as well, and the intention is to start the Australian Open on Monday.

‘We’re absolutely confident the Australian Open’s going to go ahead. We know we’ve got a period now we’ve got to work through with those players and their staff that needed tests. 

“The probability is very low that there’s going to be any issue, we fully expect them all to test negative.

“If we have to go through this again, we’ll go through this again. We’ve got another three and a half weeks of tennis and fully expect to keep to the original schedule once we get past today.”

For now, plans remain to allow 30,000 punters per day into Melbourne park for the tennis, with the venue divided into three strict isolation zones.


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