The good news is that after 3 months of strict lockdown due to a surge in coronavirus, Melbourne is reopening on Wednesday, paving the way for the easing of restrictions and, hopefully, the return of spectators to sport.
We hope it will change for the better, that they will shorten the quarantine period. We still don’t know how the situation regarding the pandemic will unfold, whether Australia will shorten that quarantine period, if that is not the case, all tennis players will have to go to Australia much earlier. Novak Djokovic
Melbourne’s liberation from its COVID-19 lockdown has boosted hopes of crowds attending some of Australia’s major sporting events in the country’s second-biggest city, including the Australian men’s cricket team’s traditional Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground from 26 December and the Australian Open, 2021’s first Grand Slam, from 18-31 January.
Restaurants, pubs and retail businesses in Melbourne, home to 5 million people, are reopening, while authorities are also allowing limited social visits to houses.
“I am very confident we’ll get a crowd at the ‘G (MCG) for the Boxing Day test,” Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews told reporters. “I don’t know how big it will be but there will be a crowd there.
“That is the advice I have and that is what we’re working towards.”
AO organisers hope to welcome at least 100,000 domestic spectators, just over 10% of the usual attendance, to Melbourne Park over the course of the two-week tournament.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic, who took a short break before returning to match play this week in Vienna, could add to his tally of 17 Grand Slam titles with a 9th win at Melbourne Park, but the uncertainty still surrounding the quarantine period required to travel to Australia is keeping the World No 1 from committing to participate.
Players have yet to learn whether the 14-day quarantine will be reduced or an exemption agreed to allow them to travel and to train ahead of the season’s first major.
Currently, during the 14 day quarantine period, players would not be able to train, which would bring down their performance levels at the event but Craig Tiley, the CEO of Tennis Australia, has put forward a proposal to solve the issue.
“We completely accept that everyone coming from overseas has got to have two weeks in quarantine,” Tiley said recently. “What we’re trying to have an agreement on is that we set up a quarantine environment.
“There, they can train and go between the hotel and the courts in those two weeks.”
Djokovic accepts that the restrictions will impact his travel plans: “We hope it will change for the better, that they will shorten the quarantine period,” he said.
“We still don’t know how the situation regarding the pandemic will unfold, whether Australia will shorten that quarantine period, if that is not the case, all tennis players will have to go to Australia much earlier.
“Tennis is privileged as a sport because it is lucky to have continued in a slightly changed and modified form.
“Most tournaments have continued since the end of the season.
“What will happen after that, a small percentage of people know that we will all have to correct ourselves and adjust every day, to change personal, family plans, it irritates each of us, but we have to deal with it and accept those circumstances,” he added.
Djokovic remained unbeaten in 2020 until his an unfortunate default at the US Open in September, while his run to the final at the French Open a few weeks later looked as if he might add to his record of major titles, but he was badly mauled by Rafael Nadal, who tamed him with ease as the Spaniard picked up his 13th title in Paris.
The Serbian will surely be seeking to defend his Australian Open title in 2021, where the big 3 are expected to be reunited, with Nadal and Roger Federer looking to win their 21st majors.