'Don't invite that': Vic Premier reveals 'risk' of losing Aus Open

Andrew Reid
·5-min read
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is seen here alongside the men's finalists from the 2020 Australian Open.
Daniel Andrews says Melbourne risked losing the Australian Open if it didn't host it in 2021. Pic: Getty

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews claims the state risked losing the Australian Open if Melbourne did not agree to host the 2021 grand slam tournament.

It comes on a dramatic day surrounding the year's first major, with American star Tennys Sandgren sparking outrage after it emerged he'd boarded a plane for Australia, despite testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

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The Victorian state government has been criticised for holding the tournament amid a pandemic, with 1200 international players and officials given an exemption to fly into Melbourne from Thursday.

But Andrews said other countries would have pounced on the billion-dollar tournament if it didn't go ahead at Melbourne Park, insisting that Australia could have lost hosting rights altogether.

Such a drastic scenario would represent a devastating financial blow, with the annual tournament injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy.

The Premier used Japan as an example, with their Olympic tennis complex in Tokyo ready and waiting after the delay of the 2020 Games.

"If the Australian Open does not happen in Melbourne, it will happen somewhere else," Andrews said on Thursday.

"It will happen in Japan, it will happen in China, it will happen in Singapore.

"The real risk then is, it doesn't come back.

"Just focus on the future of this event - not just this year - but what not having this event this year may well mean.

"There are so many cities around the world that would do anything to have one of those grand slam events anchored in their city.

"Many ... might go ahead and build a brand-new facility from scratch to do it.

"You don't invite that."

Pictured here, the first overseas contingent arrive in Melbourne for the Australian Open.
The first overseas contingent of Australian Open players, staff and officials arrived in Melbourne on Thursday. Pic: Getty

The event is the richest and biggest on the Australian sporting calendar and Andrews says it supports more than a quarter of a million Victorian jobs.

He added the government and taxpayers needed a return on the $1.5 billion invested in building the Melbourne Park facility over a 10-year period.

"This event is very important to our city and our state," he added.

"On that basis, it is worth going to these extraordinary steps to make sure it can happen, but in a safe way."

Tennis fans were up in arms on Thursday after it emerged that Sandgren was allowed to join fellow players on an Australian Open charter flight out of Los Angeles, despite confirming that he'd only recently tested positive for COVID-19, for a second time.

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After initially being barred from flying out of LAX, Sandgren described Australian Open boss Craig Tiley as a "wizard" after being given the all-clear to travel to Australia.

"My two tests were less than 8 weeks apart. I was sick in November, totally healthy now," Sandgren tweeted.

"There's not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point. Totally recovered!," Sandgren said.

Sandgren’s posted details of his whirlwind experience on social media, with the tennis world closely scrutinising the confusing turn of events.

A quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park in 2018 and 2020, Sandgren was supported by Tennis Australia, who said they followed Victorian government guidelines in allowing him onto the flight.

"Some people who have recovered from COVID-19 and who are non-infectious can continue to shed the virus for several months," TA tweeted.

"Victorian Government public health experts assess each case based on additional detailed medical records to ensure they are not infectious before checking in to the charter flights."

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville also tweeted that Sandgren was fine to travel to Australia.

Pictured here, Tennys Sandgren boarded a plane to Australia despite a recent COVID-positive test.
Tennys Sandgren boarded a flight to Melbourne despite testing positive for coronavirus days ago. Pic: Getty

"Tennys Stangren's positive result was reviewed by health experts and determined to be viral shedding from a previous infection, so was given the all clear to fly. No one who is COVID positive for the first time - or could still be infectious - will be allowed in for the Aus Open," Neville posted.

TA said Sandgren, like all of the 1200-strong international contingent, would be tested every day at their three hotels during the 14-day quarantine period.

The first players were scheduled to arrive in Melbourne on Thursday night, while mega-stars including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem are on a separate charter that will fly direct to Adelaide.

They will quarantine in a hotel there before an exhibition event at Memorial Drive on January 29 in the South Australian capital, featuring eight of the world's top players.

World No.1 Ashleigh Barty is still to be confirmed as a starter, with her management telling AAP she is hoping to play.

with AAP

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