The first tennis Grand Slam of 2021, the Australian Open, could start three weeks later than initially scheduled, on 8 February 2021.
Players have reportedly been cleared to train during quarantine following lengthy negotiations between Tennis Australia and Victoria state authorities.
Australian Open could be pushed back to February
According to reports in Australian media, the start date of the tournament was announced to players by tournament director Craig Tiley.
The Australian Open joins the three other major tournaments in being disrupted by the coronavirus.
“It’s taken a while, but the great news is it looks like we are going to be able to hold the AO (Australian Open) on 8 February,” Tiley was quoted as telling players in a leaked letter.
“Players will have to quarantine for two weeks from 15 January, but the Victorian government has agreed to special conditions for AO participants — agreeing that they need to be able to prepare for a Grand Slam.”
Players can train in quarantine
Under the leaked plan, all players who test negative for COVID-19 will be able to train while in isolation.
An 8 February start date would allow for a week of warm-up tournaments after quarantine. Accepting that date would likely mean that the flagship ATP Cup men’s team event would need to be scrapped due to a lack of time.
Premier Daniel Andrews said that Victoria remained committed to holding the Australian Open, but that safety needed to be the number one priority.
“Unlike every other tennis tournament that the men’s and women’s tours will play this year, only the Australian Open is a tennis tournament in a city where it can likely be assumed that those players will bring the virus here,” he told reporters.
“Just think about that for a moment –- every other Grand Slam (is happening in a place where) cases are running wild.”
Former world number one Rafael Nadal last month said it was an unprecedented situation and urged patience from players.
“That is difficult for everyone,” he said at the ATP Finals in London. “We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year.”
The 2020 US Open was held behind closed doors, and the French Open was delayed and took place in front of limited crowds, while Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II.
Australian Open still on
Tennis Australia issued a statement on 1 December:
“Tennis Australia continues to work closely and productively with the Victorian Government and we are confident we will be in a position to finalise details for Australian Open 2021 very soon.
“We are also in constant communication with the global tennis community, including the Tours, the players and their teams, as we consult with them on plans for the event and how players can safely practise and prepare for a Grand Slam tournament under the Victorian Government’s proposed quarantine conditions.
“Understandably there has been public speculation on the various plans under consideration as well as the many confidential conversations that have taken place and our position remains clear – everything will require approval and agreement from the Victorian Government before it can be confirmed.
“The protection and safety of the community remains paramount in the discussions.
“Our team continues to work on delivering a fantastic – and safe – AO 2021 for the players, the fans, our partners and our staff. We look forward to announcing more details, including when tickets will go on sale, very soon.”