Novak Djokovic’s idea of tournament bubbles is not perfect, but it’s better than nothing
Running major sporting events in the middle of a global pandemic has unsurprisingly proved very complicated, with several events forced to find unique and often controversial ways to keep going despite any restrictions or requirements that are in place.
There is little doubt that tennis is badly affected, perhaps even more so than most other sports considering how much it relies on international travel and events in different parts of the globe.
Those complications were on show the past month with several stumbling blocks rolling into the path of the Australian Open organisers.
However, despite the original controversy, it cannot be denied that the event in general has been a success, with fans returning on Thursday and several players taking part in the warm-up events in Melbourne Park ahead of the season-opening hard-court Grand Slam.
The number of events in Melbourne has proven to be success, with a separate WTA event currently taking place, and Novak Djokovic is a high profile backer of similar bubbles of events taking place in the future.
After his quarter-final victory over Alexander Zverev, he said: “We have to address this very quickly because the season has already started.
“I heard some players talk about that, and I don’t mind discussing that kind of idea. Select one place and we play all the tournaments on that surface and that place.”
Djokovic has been criticised by many since arriving in Australia, largely due to his efforts to try and relax restrictions for those in hard quarantine, and this idea is certainly not a perfect one.
Several events will suffer financially if they cannot be held, particularly smaller events such as ATP and WTA 250s, though considering the current state of international travel and some events in Melbourne it seems this suggestion will be the most viable solution.
The lockdown period proved mentally and physically tough for everyone involved, especially for those in hard quarantine, and it is hard to see how much enthusiasm there will be to compete if players have to repeat this all year around.
Though the tournament has largely been a success, the amount of injuries – particularly in the men’s draw – suggests players could do with more practice and less time in quarantine later this season.
Not only that, the victories of the Australian Open and the Melbourne Summer Series matches the success of other bubbles we have already seen since tennis resumed last August.
The bubble at the USTA National Tennis Centre for the Western and Southern Open and US Open was well-received by most, whilst the back-to-back events in Cologne last October was also popular with many of the ATP players who were in action there.
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) August 28, 2020
Zverev, who won both events in Cologne, echoed Djokovic’s sentiments after their quarter-final in Melbourne.
He said: “I think what the ATP should do and should look into is maybe having a venue like here and play multiple weeks at one place. Because at the end of the day in Europe right now we can’t have spectators anyway, so what difference does it really make where we play the tournament?”
Some events have already been cancelled or delayed, such as Indian Wells, and with most players keen to continue competing on both the ATP and WTA this year, decisions will have to be made sooner rather than later.
It is by no means a perfect solution but the idea touted by Djokovic and others could well be the best way to ensure tennis can continue successfully in 2021.
Follow Oli Jefford on Twitter @odicksonjefford.
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