‘Crunch time’ for 2021 Australian Open as officials negotiate quarantine plans for players

Australian Open Melbourne Park

Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley insists they are still determined to host the hard-court Grand Slam in its usual slot in Melbourne next year, but admits they are still trying to come up with a proposal that will allow players to practice while in quarantine.

The 2021 Australian Open is scheduled to take place from 18-31 January, but plans remain up in the air due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As things stand, people arriving in Australia have to self-isolate for 14 days in a hotel at their own expense and Tiley admits that would not be practical for tennis players ahead of a Grand Slam.

“If a player has to quarantine and be stuck in a hotel for two weeks just before their season, that won’t happen,” he told the Australian Associated Press on Thursday.

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

He added: “We completely accept that everyone coming from overseas has got to have two weeks in quarantine.”

Tiley says they are trying to come up with an AFL-style training bubble for players ahead of next year’s tournament.

“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 hotel and the courts in those two weeks,” he said.

“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.”

Melbourne is also still on lockdown with the borders closed following another spike in Covid-19 cases.

Tiley admits it could have an impact on the multi-city event, the ATP Cup, which is set to take place in several cities across Australia, at the start of the year.

He added: “We’re getting to crunch time now. We need commitments from the governments and the health officers.

“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.”

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