MELBOURNE • Australian Open chief Craig Tiley yesterday said decisions would soon be made regarding arrangements for the first Grand Slam of the year, after reports said it could be moved from its usual January slot.
He had originally wanted tennis players to start arriving in Australia from mid-December, so they could undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period before playing traditional warm-up events before the hard-court Major.
But that plan has been thrown into doubt by Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews, who is adopting a cautious stance, with Melbourne only recently emerging from a months-long lockdown to combat a second wave of Covid-19.
He reportedly wants players to arrive only from early January, which would make it all but impossible to hold the high-profile ATP Cup and other tournaments before the scheduled start of the Open on Jan 18.
It also remains unclear whether players will be allowed to train during quarantine and last Saturday, The Herald Sun said the season’s Slam was set to be pushed back to February or March.
Organisers responded by calling the report “pure speculation” and Tiley reiterated that stance, adding that he was hopeful of reaching an agreement with local authorities.
“Tennis Australia is doing everything we can to finalise the summer of tennis as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.
“We are working closely with the Victorian government on a plan that takes into account the needs of the players, fans, our partners and staff, and is of major benefit to the Victorian and Australian economy.
“Our intention is to deliver a summer in conditions that allow the players to prepare and perform at their best and the fans to enjoy their efforts – all in an environment that is safe for all concerned.
“We are continuing our urgent talks with local health authorities regarding quarantining and bio-security requirements and are confident we will have decisions soon.
“Tennis Australia is acutely aware of the need for certainty, but also conscious of reaching a solution with the state government that ensures the safety of the entire community.”
DO ALL THAT WE CAN
We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year.
While March appears to be a worst-case scenario, The Age newspaper said it understood that the Open was likely to be delayed by one or two weeks, with Feb 1 emerging as a possible start date.
Amid the uncertainty, joint-record 20-time Slam champion Rafael Nadal urged his peers to stay calm given the crisis.
“We just need to be patient and accept the situation that we are facing. That is difficult for everyone,” he said, after losing in the semi-finals to Daniil Medvedev at the ATP Finals in London on Saturday.
“We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year.”
The Open has not been held outside January since 1987.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS