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Australian Open still causing concern

As the 2020 season draws to an end, players and fans are looking ahead to next year with the hope of seeing the two tours settling down into their traditional calendars.

Tennis Australia continues to work closely with the Victorian Government on staging the Australian Open, Victoria state statement

As things stand that won’t be the case as far as the Australian leg is concerned with a big question mark hanging over the Australian Open and the efforts the organisers are going to, to provide tournament play for players to warm-up at prior to the first Grand Slam of the season.

Craig Tilley, the AO tournament director has been very positive for the past few weeks when he announced that the lead-in events to Melbourne would all be played in Victoria to prevent players from travelling between the states and venues.

But that programme, which would follow the example of the US Open, has been dashed by the premier of Victoria state who has now revealed that players would not be allowed into the country until the end of December, when the players hoped to arrive around at least a fortnight earlier!

And, on arrival, the players and their entourages would immediately be made to undergo a fortnight of quarantine, virtually incarcerated in their hotel room with meals being delivered to their doors!

That means the players would leave less than a week to prepare for the big one in Melbourne which kicks off on January 18.

Flights are another problem, not only are they expensive but now very irregular.

The possibility that the AO could be moved back a few weeks is a consideration but the logistics for that at this late stage are formidable.

Coming to an agreement with the authorities is obviously a major and urgent priority.

“Tennis Australia continues to work closely with the Victorian Government on staging the Australian Open,” a statement from Tennis Australia states.

“The health and safety of the community, the players and all involved in the event, has always been our top priority, and we recognise the incredible effort and the sacrifices all Victorians have made to contain Covid-19.

“We will provide more updates when available.”

From a players’ viewpoint the situation is very frustrating although they understand the need for caution and the concern over Covid-19 being imported to the state which has managed to get it under control in the last few weeks.

Alexander Zverev, who is currently competing at The O2, said: “If we can’t even practice for 14 days and then we have to go out and play the Australian Open, it’s a lottery.

“I hope we do find a way to be able to play one or two weeks before the Australian Open but in general I just hope the Australian Open happens because right now everything is so unsure.

“Credit to Tennis Australia and to Craig Tiley, I think they’re trying the best they can. I think the Australian government is being very cautious. If 3,000 people all of a sudden arrive in Australia, there will be cases, there is no about it.”

The German also added that without 14 days of practice the AO would become a lottery. “I mean, you can basically flip a coin as to who wins!” he declared.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Andrews said: “This is incredibly complex. It has to be done safely; it has to be done properly.

“We’re confident that we’ll finish up with an Australian Open, it’s a very important event, but there’s a lot of work to be done to make sure that it’s as safe as possible.

“Whether there are lead-in tournaments, that’s to be worked through.”

Johanna Konta is concerned at lack of preparation

Julian Finney/Getty Images

The importance of lead-in tournaments was highlighted by Johanna Konta who was taken aback by the latest developments down-under.

“Everyone was very much looking forward and had kind of got their head round the 14 December date, and I think it came as a bit of an adjustment, a bit of a shock,” she told BBC Sport.

“Everyone is obviously a bit frustrated. However, it’s not under our control, it’s not under Tennis Australia’s control – it’s a government decision.

“I think we just have to stay flexible, and stay open that things might change again, but hopefully if not we will be heading out at the end of December.”

She also believes that no warm-up events could prove physically detrimental for players.

“From my perspective, my body wouldn’t be able to handle two weeks of de-conditioning, and then pushing me into the deep end,” the 29-year-old from Eastbourne, added.

“I think it would make it very difficult for players to be able to compete at the highest level without risking their bodies in the process.

“I think in an ideal world, players would get the opportunity to play one or two warm-up events.”

Her comments were supported by Brazilian doubles expert Bruno Soares competing at The O2,

“I think its quite dangerous for the players with no preparation,” he said yesterday.



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