Tennis

Australian Open seeks OK for players to train while under quarantine

The Australian Open will go ahead in January only if agreement can be reached with local authorities to allow players to practise while they undergo quarantine in Melbourne, tournament director Craig Tiley said yesterday.

Tiley is confident the Grand Slam will go ahead but conceded that the ATP Cup and warm-up tournaments might need to be switched to Melbourne if the borders between Australia's states remain closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Melbourne remains locked down after a second spike in coronavirus cases and everyone currently arriving in Australia must quarantine for 14 days in a hotel at their own expense.

Variations have been allowed in some states to allow sports teams to train while in isolation and Tiley believes something similar will be essential for the Australian Open to go ahead.

"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 Australian Associated Press.

"You can't ask players to quarantine for two weeks and then step out and be ready to play a Grand Slam."

While he expects two weeks' quarantine for all arrivals, Tiley added that what they are hoping to have is a quarantine environment where players can train and commute between the hotel and courts in that fortnight.

He has always said that flexible planning via various graded scenarios would be the key to getting the tournament up and running as long as the global health crisis continued.

Tiley has revised his expected crowd numbers from the 50 per cent he predicted in August down to a likely 25 per cent of the normal number of visitors to Melbourne Park - roughly 100,000 people.

The US$15 million (S$20.4m) ATP Cup, a joint-venture between the men's Tour and Tennis Australia (TA), debuted last year at the heart of a rejigged Australian Open warm-up schedule, which included women's events in Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart.

Tiley, who doubles as TA chief executive, said holding the ATP Cup over three cities would be impossible if state borders remained closed and is hoping the improving health conditions would lead to a relaxation.

"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." - REUTERS

Tennis