No date has yet been confirmed for the Australian Open start, but that minor detail has apparently not stopped officials in Melbourne from unleashing a torrent of rules and regulation for the unlucky Grand Slam.
While players have for decades looked forward to the January dates in the middle of the Southern summer at the “Happy Slam” the upcoming edition – date not yet announced – will make the experience more like a return to middle school.
For starters, ATP and WTA worldwide tennis arrivals will be restricted to 1,000 foreigners, according to a report from Spanish sports paper MARCA.
With 128-strong singles draws plus 64 in doubles – juniors are cancelled and qualies may reportedly be held outside of the country in the Gulf – the figure leaves little room for the coaches, physios and support staff to which even modest players have become accustomed to.
With flights to the island-continent all but non existent due to a complete COVID-19 shutdown of international flights nationwide, Tennis Australia is prepared to fund charters – economy class only, please, upgrades might be for sale – from Dubai, Singapore and Los Angeles, apparently just ignoring Europe, home to the vast majority of the tennis player population.
Upon arrival in Melbourne, everyone will go immediately into mandatory hotel-room quarantine for 14 days, allowed out for only five hours a day – and limited to two hours of training – with COVID tests coming like clockwork every few days.
Once cleared from the lockdown, players will see their per diem increased to around EUR 260/day and be allowed to choose their own hotel or private residence as per usual.
If anyone tests positive, then it’s back into quarantine; if tests come up positive during the event – which is now likely to be played up to a month late in February – then disqualification is on the cards, though a follow-up test is allowed..
MARCA said that the ATP and WTA are hoping to organise some tournaments in the week prior to what is looking like a February 8 start to at least give the impression of match play prior to the first Grand Slam of the year.
The entire project must still be approved by the ATP Player Council – not entirely sure – and the WTA – all on board.