Players facing criminal sanctions under 'crazy' Australian Open plans

Australian Associated Press
·4-min read
Craig Tiley, pictured here with Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem after the 2020 Australian Open final.
Craig Tiley with Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem after the 2020 Australian Open final. (Photo by Frank Molter/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Government officials have moved to assure Victorians that participants in next month’s Australian Open will be subjected to the strictest quarantine arrangements for a tennis tournament anywhere in the world.

Players have been warned of severe penalties, including possible criminal sanctions, if they or a member of their team break quarantine.

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About 1200 players, officials and support staff will be tested for COVID-19 before travelling to Melbourne on one of the 15 charter flights that will arrive from Thursday evening.

They will quarantine in one of three Melbourne hotels - the Grand Hyatt, Pullman Albert Park and View Melbourne - for two weeks.

They will be permitted to leave their hotel rooms for up to five hours a day for training and treatment, in order to reduce the risk of injury, and will do so in a secure training bubble overseen by COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria staff.

Dedicated training venues have been set up at Melbourne Park, the National Tennis Centre and Albert Reserve.

Participants in the training bubble will only be allowed to access training facilities from day two of their quarantine periods, and only once they have returned a negative coronavirus test.

They will be tested every day while in quarantine.

Once participants have completed quarantine, they will no longer be subjected to mandatory coronavirus testing, unless they display symptoms.

Participants who test positive to COVID-19, as well as anyone identified as a close contact, will be transferred to a health hotel and will not be allowed to take part in the Australian Open until they have returned a negative test result.

Victoria’s Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said the quarantine program for Australia Open participants is “identical” to the program being run at other mandatory quarantine hotels.

Sofia Kenin, pictured here during the 2020 Australian Open final.
Sofia Kenin celebrates during the 2020 Australian Open final. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

“We are assuming that every single tennis player that arrives ... has the potential to be positive,” Neville said.

“Our program has been designed around that potential and how we ensure that, if there is a positive case, that there is no risk to the Victorian community.

“We have put in place the strongest and strictest rules that apply for tennis across the world.”

Six of the world’s top players will quarantine in Adelaide and contest an exhibition tournament in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

They will then be granted permits to enter Victoria. Limits to be imposed on Australian Open crowd numbers are yet to be decided.

Australian Open boss says conditions ‘crazy’

Defending Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin admitted it was “not the most ideal situation”.

“It is what it is. The rules are quite harsh, but it’s for everyone,” she said.

Ukrainian World No.5 Elina Svitolina hired a mental coach in an effort to cope with the stress and uncertainty.

“I think during the difficult time right now, mentally it's very important to stay strong, to stay fresh,” she said.

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley admitted there would be “some benefits” for players amid the smaller cohort in Adelaide but said “the conditions of training will be the same”.

Novak Djokovic, pictured here with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the 2020 Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic kisses the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the 2020 Australian Open. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Tiley said the toll on organisers had been immense with a 1270-strong contingent on 80 charter flights, bankrolled by Tennis Australia, journeying to Melbourne and Adelaide this week.

“It's just crazy, we've never seen anything like it,” he told the Tennis Channel.

“Logistically, to pull something like this off will be a small miracle but we are giving it a good go.”

Even though Melbourne recently experienced a small new outbreak of the virus, Tiley expected crowd capacity at the Grand Slam to be around 50-75 percent, exceeding the biggest audience for a tennis tournament since the pandemic started.

“We are doing the best we can to deliver an Australian Open to as close as it was in 2020,” he said.

“Hopefully there will be normalcy to it.”

with AFP

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