As anyone who’s paying attention knows by now, it was an important week in Melbourne before the Australian Open 2021. After positive tests on three of the charter flights that arrived in town last week and the ensuing isolation of 72 players, it was dizzying Speculation about what the tournament will be like when it finally starts on the scheduled start date February 8th.
Craig Tiley, the tournament director, has publicly insisted that despite the current challenges facing many players, the event should not be delayed any further, and he opposed other changes, including suggesting that men play the normal five as opposed to the top three sets .
“These are high performing athletes, and it’s difficult to keep a high performing athlete in a room,” Tiley said during an interview with Nine Network earlier this week. “This is the contribution you must make to receive the Privilege as you compete for $ 80 million ($ 62 million) in prize money.”
Some players have publicly expressed their frustration with the current situation, including Alize Cornet and Roberto Bautista Agutboth of which are in the “hard quarantine” log. Novak Djokovic, number 1 in the world, gave Tiley a list of suggestions to help the affected players. Everyone was met with severe disapproval by the Australian public for criticizing players’ lack of awareness of the larger societal issue surrounding the virus, and the three players have since apologized.
What does this all mean for the first major of the year? Here are some of the biggest questions and answers about the event.
Will spectators be allowed on the premises?
The Australian Open will have spectators with organizers hoping for between 50% and 75% capacity, a number that will be set in February, but it will be a very different experience than the festival atmosphere the slam is going for which has become known for years.
Melbourne Park will be divided into three different ticket zones to effectively “bubble” fans. In the three zones, tickets for one of the three main arenas can be bought in socially distant groups with one to six seats. Ticket holders can only access their seats and all outdoor courts, public viewing areas and facilities in their zone.
What are the test protocols for players and family members who have traveled with you?
Tennis Australia organized charter flights bringing 1,200 players, support staff and family members to Melbourne and Adelaide to receive a modified version of the 14-day Australian quarantine process for international arrivals. Each was tested for COVID-19 before boarding and upon landing.
Another test is done on the second day. If this is negative, players are allowed to leave their hotel rooms for five hours of training under strict biosecurity protocols.
When someone returns a positive result, they return to a tough quarantine that includes a mandatory 14 days exclusively in their hotel room. This also applies to anyone who was on the same flight as the positive case, as they are considered close contact. This is already having an impact on the preparations for the Open with 11 positive cases including Spain Paula BadosaThis resulted in 72 players being forced into a 14-day ban.
The stars and top seeds of the tournament – including Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams – were quarantined before the warm-up tournament in Adelaide at the end of January and were allowed to bring larger followers and use the hotel’s gyms.
How has Tennis Australia’s response to the initial quarantine of players been received locally and globally?
The quarantine rollout for the Australian Open was not well received on site. Although Australia’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic is some of the most effective in the world, there are currently still a large number of overseas Australians unable to return as the federal government has put a cap on the number of international arrivals to do so not to overwhelm the hotel quarantine system. This, along with rising airfare and the lack of flight options – Emirates suspended all flights to the country earlier this month – has led opposition politicians, media commentators and many members of the public to voice their concerns about perceived double standards.
The initial negative reaction of some gamers to hotel quarantine was also frowned upon in Melbourne, whose citizens endured a three-month tough lockdown in mid-2020 after spiraling cases of COVID-19 originating from returned travelers in quarantined hotels with logs were not properly followed. For many in Victoria, the risk of a new outbreak after two lockdown cycles is too great.
Which players had the most comment on the tournament minutes?
Many players initially used social media to express their frustration at the forced 14-day quarantine after positive cases on their flights. However, following a local social media backlash, many of them have declined their comments along with it Alize Cornet Posting on Monday, “Your reaction to that tactless comment made me realize what you went through last year and how much you suffered. I think I’m a little concerned about all of this and I better shut my mouth.”
Number 1 Djokovic in the world reportedly sent Tiley a list of calls for restrictions to be relaxed, including moving players to private homes with tennis courts, reducing quarantine times, and getting better food and fitness equipment delivered to player rooms.
The reported claims were quickly shot down by Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews. “People are free to make lists of demands. But the answer is no. And that was made very clear. That was made very clear beforehand.”
Were the WTA and ATP tournaments changed or influenced before the Australian Open?
Just like the Australian Open itself, the lead-in events in 2021 will be very different. Only Melbourne and Adelaide are played. Two WTA events, two ATP events and the ATP Cup are currently planned for the week before the major. But Tiley told the Australian The WTA tournaments could potentially be postponed for two days to keep the players in tough quarantine and the draw sizes could potentially be reduced.
A one-off event called “A day at the Drive” will take place in South Australia on January 29th, featuring some of the world’s best players including Serena Williams, Nadal, Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka. The game will take place at Memorial Drive Tennis Center in Adelaide and each professional will appear in just one session.
The popular ATP Cup will return in 2021, but this year in Melbourne. The weeklong tournament begins on February 1st and will consist of 12 teams.