Australian Open boss Craig Tiley has categorically ruled out staging the 2021 Melbourne grand slam if players are forced into two weeks of hard quarantine. But Tiley remains “absolutely” confident the Open will go ahead as planned from 18 to 31 January, along with the usual lead-up events.
He is banking on Australia’s state and federal governments relaxing border restrictions and granting special approval for a training bubble to be established for the world’s tennis elite.
“If a player has to quarantine and be stuck in a hotel for two weeks just before their season, that won’t happen,” Tiley told AAP on Thursday. “You can’t ask players to quarantine for two weeks and then step out and be ready to play a grand slam.”
In a huge boost, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, both of whom turn 40 in 2021, have already committed to the Open but Tiley says players simply will not show up if they cannot prepare properly.
“Right now the challenge we have is the borders are still closed,” he said. “So we’ve got a plan on the basis that there will be all open borders. So we’re working with all state governments. 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.
“That’s similar to the AFL. The difference we have with the AFL is we are bringing in players from overseas so the stakes are higher.”
The US Open and French Open both proceeded successfully in the past six weeks.
Significantly though, players weren’t asked to quarantine, instead having to operate in a bubble and undergo regular COVID-19 tests.
Adding to Tiley’s confidence that the Australian Open will take place, likely with 25 per cent fan capacity and with all players allowed a three-team entourage, is the fact that Frenchman Beniot Paire was the only one from more than 10,000 tests to contract coronavirus in New York.
Tiley is also hopeful the entire summer schedule will remain, including the multi-city ATP Cup, but that is contingent on state borders being re-opened.
“We’re getting to crunch time now. We need commitments from the governments and the health officers,” he said.
“We need to kind of know in the next two weeks, maybe a month, that this is what can happen: borders are going to open and then we can have a multi-city event.
“If we cannot have a multi-city event, we’ve got to reconsider everything.”
If borders aren’t re-opened, Tiley didn’t rule out the ATP Cup and potentially the Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart International tournaments being held in Melbourne, just as the Cincinnati Open was staged at Flushing Meadows before the US Open.
“Anything is possible right now,” Tiley said. “Everything is still on the table.”
The post Australian Open backed to go ahead if AFL-style training bubble can be set up appeared first on The Guardian.