Preparations for the 2021 Australian Open are in disarray amid reports the Victorian government will not allow international players into the country in December.
Stever Weissman of Tennis Channel broke the news on Wednesday, saying a number of lead-up events for the Australian Open are now in serious jeopardy.
‘NOT HUMAN’: Tennis fans erupt over 'crazy' Nadal act
“Word from Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley is that the first two weeks of the tune-ups for the Australian Open could be in jeopardy,” Weissman said.
“The Victorian Government is not letting players quarantine during the month of December.”
Looks like the Australian Open is in big danger, tbh. https://t.co/ljBLEasDQ3
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) November 17, 2020
According to The Herald Sun: “The state government has refused a Tennis Australia request for players to be allowed into Victoria in December.”
Tennis Australia had been planning on getting players into Australia before Christmas so they could complete the 14-day quarantine period before playing lead-up events, including the new ATP Cup.
Tennis Australia are keen to emulate the AFL hub model by shifting all events to Victoria ahead of January's Open, to ensure the strongest-possible field for the first major of the year.
They plan to transfer at least five events usually held in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart to Victoria in a blockbuster summer of action.
The unprecedented measure would see up to 550 players and their entourages flying into Melbourne from mid-December, where they would be allowed to play and train but be restricted to hotels or the tennis court until they had completed two weeks of quarantine.
They would then be free to travel around the state for competition, with some of the tournaments set to be held at regional venues such as Bendigo and Traralgon, subject to approval.
Daniel Andrews casts fresh doubt of Aus Open plans
However that plan now appears to be in disarray, with the very real possibility that the start date for the Australian Open will have to be pushed back.
“The prior plan was players were going to be arriving in mid-December so they could quarantine for 14 days in a couple of hotels in Melbourne,” American great Jim Courier said on Tennis Channel.
“That was already a change from the initial plan to have events around the country and players quarantining in Brisbane and Perth and in different places.
“Everything now moving to Melbourne and possibly shifting again now today, the players definitely not arriving in December.
“Lots of things up in the air, spare a thought for Tennis Australia. I cannot imagine that Craig and his team are getting any sleep at all.”
On Monday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews cast fresh doubt over the Australian Open, saying there was no certainty the first grand slam of the year would go ahead.
Australian Open tournament director Tiley felt they had a “guarantee” that the event would go ahead, but the premier insisted such plans were far from settled.
“The notion this is all tied up with a bow, it's a done deal, that's simply wrong,” Andrews said on Monday.
“The public health team needs to sign off on all of these arrangements and they are just not settled.
“We want the event to happen, just like the Boxing Day Test, but the thing about the cricket compared to the tennis is it's a tiny group of people (who) we think we can quarantine.
“It's a massive event, it's an event that all of us love ... but it comes at a time when the rest of the world is on fire.
“The notion this is all a done deal and there's going to be all these tennis players turning up - no, this is not settled at all.
“It's an important event, absolutely, but avoiding a third wave is arguably even more important. This needs to be done on the best of public health advice.”
ATP acknowledges fresh Australia ‘challenges’
Some events could be played after the January 18-31 Open in a re-worked calender.
“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 ATP said in a note to players on Wednesday.
“We continue to work with Tennis Australia on confirming plans for January, and we will provide an update as soon as more information is available 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.”
Australia has largely brought COVID-19 to heel but the country is on high alert after a fresh outbreak in South Australia in recent days, which has prompted neighbouring states to tighten their borders.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.