The Australian Open is reportedly set to be held outside of January for the first time since 1987, as planning for the grand slam continues to be thrown into chaos by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reports emerged on Saturday that the Melbourne Park major could be pushed back as late as March or even April.
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Aussie tennis commentator Brett Phillips revealed on SEN radio that the event will almost certainly be delayed, but a final decision on when it will be held has not been reached.
“It’s chaos, it’s delicate discussions, it’s crazy,” Phillips said.
“It’s incredible times for TA. I’d hate to be a TA administrator or a sports administrator full stop in 2020.
“Next year, it’s not going to get back to normal for so many sports. There’s breaking news by the hour with the Australian Open.
“My strong feeling, just on the situation that’s happened in Victoria in the past seven or eight months and our Premier, who’s taken a fair bit of criticism for the whole hotel quarantine bungle, is that they’re taking a very cautious approach.
“I’ve just got a very strong feeling that the Australian Open is going to be pushed back possibly to March or April. This is certainly one of the scenarios that was on the table, it was talked about.
“There’s no doubt the Australian Open won’t happen on it’s scheduled date. It’s just a matter of whether they move it back a week or do they push it back to March, April.”
The Australian Open hasn’t been played outside of January since 1987.
A final decision on the official dates will reportedly be made in the next 48 hours.
By saying “speculation” rather than flatly untrue, it sounds to me like there might be something to it. They are very much at the mercy of the government and they’re not playing around down there
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 21, 2020
Daniel Andrews responds to Aus Open reports
Later on Saturday, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said he is’t sure exactly when the Australian Open can be held, but said people should not read too much into reports that it could be delayed by months.
The major stumbling block is the Victorian Government’s reported stance of not allowing incoming players to arrive until January 1.
That would give them just a handful of days to prepare for the tournament after serving their mandatory two-week quarantine period.
Although a delay is on the cards it is expected to be much shorter than months, with Andrews confident the tournament will go ahead in the “early part of next year”.
“This is not a simple thing, to have many hundreds or indeed potentially well more than 1000 athletes and others who support them, media, being here for a very important event,” Andrews told reporters.
“It has to be done safely, it has to be done right. I am very confident we will have an Australian Open in the early part of next year.
“The exact timing of it, the exact arrangements we put in place, they are not settled yet and as soon as they are I will be more than happy to share it with you.
“But I would not read too much into some of the reports.
“A lot of people are doing a lot of talking about these things, and while they are talking we're getting on with the work so that we can have one of our most significant major events, not just for the state but indeed for the whole nation, happen as close to normal, as normal as anything can be ... COVID normal.”
Tennis Australia also dismissed the speculation on Saturday.
“It's pure speculation,” a TA spokesperson said.
“Earlier in the week we... (said) how we continue to work closely with the Victorian government and we will update with more information as soon as possible, and there’s no update from that at the moment.”
Players have expressed concerns about the proposed arrangements, saying they need more time to prepare for the year’s first major.
The impact on the traditional lead-up events is also a big talking point.
Australian Open officials had originally hoped to have players arrive in the country in early December so they could play some lead-in events after serving their quarantine.
Poor Federer who will be 4 months older by April , achy joints and all
— Tennisitis (@chipocc_y) November 21, 2020
Noooo!!!! We want to see roger Federer. It could be his last Aus open
— Isabel Bataller (@Isafederer) November 21, 2020
— Martín Carvajal (@Martn30366140) November 21, 2020
— ✨Jasmina Dimitrievska✨ (@iloverooey12) November 21, 2020
2021 Australian Open could be delayed until March/April, decision expected within a few days...big news.
— DanRodenby (@Tennisbrainwork) November 21, 2020
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