MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Victoria premier Daniel Andrews has said staging the Australian Open in January and other tennis tournaments in the southern state is no “done deal” due to COVID-19, putting the brakes on Tennis Australia’s (TA) scheduling plans.
TA boss Craig Tiley told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper that the ATP Cup and other events would be held in Victoria in the leadup to the year’s first Grand Slam in January, because of logistical challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Andrews said health authorities had not signed off on TA’s plans.
“The notion that …. there’s going to be all these tennis players turn up now, that is not settled, not settled at all,” Andrews told reporters.
“We’ve got to work through those things in a methodical way. (The Australian Open) is an important event. Absolutely. But avoiding a third wave is arguably even more important, but we’ll keep working through those issues.
“I think we can have the event go ahead, but it’s going to have to look different.”
The Australian Open starts Jan. 18.
Once the epicentre of a second wave outbreak of COVID-19 mid-year, Victoria has recorded 17 consecutive days of no new cases following a four-month lockdown.
But the country is back on outbreak alert after South Australia state reported more than a dozen new cases on Monday, a dramatic increase from the previous day, prompting other states to tighten internal borders.
Tiley told the Herald Sun that the men’s season-opening ATP Cup and other Australian Open warmups, including the Brisbane International and events in Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra, would be moved to Victoria.
“There is now no risk of the Australian Open going ahead without everyone in Victoria and we didn’t have that guarantee previously,” the paper quoted him as saying.
TA declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
Tournament directors for the Brisbane, Hobart and Adelaide events said their tournaments would be played in Victoria.
“Tennis fans in Queensland will understandably be feeling a little flat with the decision however the current COVID-19 protocols meant a Melbourne-only summer of tennis is the safest and most feasible option for the playing group,” Brisbane International tournament director Mark Handley said in a statement.
Tiley told the Herald Sun players would be able to train and compete in a biosecure bubble during a two-week quarantine after landing in Melbourne but would then be free to move around Victoria and mix with fans.
“So the Australian Open will be played in an open environment with players moving around freely, as well as fans – at least up to 25% (capacity),” he said.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Toby Davis and Christopher Cushing)