Australian Open boss Craig Tiley is counting on the unprecedented drawing power of his event to pull major stars out of their COVID-19 hibernation by next January.
The South African administrator told Melbourne’s Age that while ATP elites Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic – Roger Federer will not return until 2021 after knee procedures – may be undecided or hesitant to play the US Open starting in a month, that should not be the case for his own major.
The January Open, though often weighed down by petty regulation for many around the grounds, is a dream for players, who are treated like royalty throughout their stay, with no perk ever too much for the international fly-ins.
Tiley is likely counting on that rep as a sweetener to lure the major names even as lockdown Melbourne currently struggles through a second wave of the contagious virus.
Tennis is due to resume in August after five months, but plans may be going amiss after the August Washington tournament – behind closed doors anyway – was cancelled this week by virus fears in the worst-hit nation on the globe.
“Most of them (Top 10) – Roger Federer included – is not playing the rest of the year and is looking to the Australian Open to launch 2021,” Tiley said.
“In fact all of them I’ve spoken to are looking to the beginning of 2021 and the beginning of the new season as the new hope for tennis globally.”
He added: “I personally think that some of the top players will be in doubt (for the remainder of the current season). That’s simply because they may feel it’s too soon – it’s nothing against the US Open.”
But travel restrictions might end up being the main sticking point for months ahead.
EU countries require a 14-day quarantine for any arrivals from outside of the bloc while Australia remains almost completely closed to inbound and outbound traffic with no end in sight.