With the tennis season getting back on track after months of suspension amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the successful staging of the US and French Open, the first grand slam tournament for 2021 will look to continue the current run but with a relaxation of rules for players.
Australian Open chief executive Craig Tiley on Thursday sought a relaxation in the rules, asking that the players coming into the country be exempt from the 14-day mandatory quarantine requirement.
In addition, Tiley said that the event is expecting to receive approval for players to be kept secure in a bio-bubble so that they remain in isolation but are able to train and prepare for the tournament.
The grand slam event at Melbourne Park is planned to be held from January 18 to 31.
“We completely accept that everyone coming from overseas has got to have two weeks in quarantine. What we are negotiating, or what we’re trying to have an agreement on, is that we set up a quarantine environment where they can train and go between the hotel and the courts in those two weeks,” Tiley was quoted as saying.
If the government relaxes border restrictions as well, players can also participate in the events, including those in Brisbane and Sydney, leading up to the Australian Open.
Tiley said that they would have to “reconsider everything” if multi-city events cannot be staged.
He further said that it didn’t make sense to ask players to stay in quarantine for two weeks and be ready to play a grand slam after that.
He cited the examples of the US and French Open, where players weren’t required to quarantine but they were in a bio-secure bubble. They had to undergo regular COVID-19 tests before being allowed to compete.
Fans were not allowed at the Flushing Meadows event, and the number of spectators at Roland Garros was brought down after a spike in COVID-19 cases in Paris. Players were also asked to wear their masks between matches as well.
Melbourne is one of the hardest COVID-hit cities in Australia. Curfews and a second lockdown were imposed after cases increased in the city. With the current guidelines in place, Australian Open is planning to have spectators up to 50 per cent capacity in the arena.
(With inputs from agencies)