5:45 P.M. (EASTERN TIME).
Novak Djokovic views the scene from the balcony of his suite in Adelaide, Australia, where he is approaching a tournament for the Australian Open in Melbourne on the 8th. February is in random quarantine. Morgan Sette/AAP image via AP
As anyone who has been paying attention knows, the week in Melbourne has been a high-profile one in the run-up to the 2021 Australian Open. Following the positive testing of three charter flights that arrived in the city last week, and the resulting isolation of 72 players, there has been giddy speculation about what the tournament will look like when it finally arrives on its scheduled 8 a.m. date. The month of February begins.
Tournament director Craig Tiley has publicly insisted that the event will not be postponed, despite the current difficulties of many players, and has rejected other changes, including a proposal that the men would play a set of three instead of the usual five.
These are high-performance athletes, and it’s hard to keep a high-performance athlete in the room, Tiley told Nine Networks this week. This is the contribution they will have to make to earn this privilege as they compete for $80 million ($62 million) in prizes.
Some actors have publicly expressed frustration with the current situation, including Alize Cornet and Roberto Bautista Agut, both of whom are under strict quarantine. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic gave Tiley a list of suggestions to help the affected players. They were all greeted with a strong rebuke from the Australian public, who criticised the lack of player awareness of the problems associated with the virus, and three players have since apologised.
What does all this mean for this year’s first major? Here are some of the key questions and answers that will be asked during the event.
Are spectators allowed to enter the site?
Organizers expect 50-75% of spectators to participate in the Australian Open. The final number will be determined in February, but it will be a very different event from the festival atmosphere in which slam has become known over the years.
Melbourne Park will be divided into three separate ticketing areas to effectively distribute fans. Tickets can be purchased in three zones for any of the three main arenas, in groups of one to six seats, socially separated. Ticket holders have access only to their seats and all outdoor areas, public viewing areas and facilities in their zone.
What are the testing protocols for players and their accompanying family members?
Tennis Australia has arranged charter flights to bring 1,200 players, support staff and their families to Melbourne and Adelaide, where they will have to undergo a modified version of Australia’s 14-day quarantine procedure for those arriving from overseas. They were all tested for KOVID-19 before and after landing.
The next test will take place on the second day, and if it is negative, the players will be allowed to leave their hotel room and train for five hours according to strict biosecurity protocols.
If a person returns positive, they are quarantined, which means they are required to stay in a hotel room for only 14 days. This includes anyone on the same flight as the positive case, as they would be considered a close contact. This has already affected preparations for the Open with 11 positive cases so far, including Spain’s Paula Adosa, resulting in the exclusion of 72 players for a period of 14 days.
Tournament stars and seeded players such as Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams will be quarantined for the warm-up tournament in Adelaide at the end of January and allowed to bring more people and use hotel rooms.
How is Tennis Australia responding to the initial quarantine of players locally and globally?
Serena Williams arrives with her daughter Olympia in Adelaide, Australia, where the tennis players will have to spend 14 days in quarantine before they can participate in preparations for the Australian Open. Mark Brake/Getty Images
The use of a quarantine during the Australian Open was not well received by locals. Although Australia’s response to the VIDOC-19 pandemic is one of the most effective in the world, there are still large numbers of Australians abroad who cannot return because the federal government has put a cap on the number of foreigners entering the country so as not to overload the hotel’s quarantine system. This, combined with rising airfares and a lack of flight options – Emirates suspended all flights to the country earlier this month – has prompted opposition politicians, media commentators and many citizens to express concern over the alleged double standards.
The initial negative reaction to hotel quarantine by some stakeholders was also not well received in Melbourne, whose citizens were subjected to a harsh three-month lockdown in mid-2020, after more cases of COVID-19 outbreaks among returning travellers in quarantine hotels where protocols were not properly followed. For many people in Victoria, the risk of another epidemic is too great because they have already gone through two cycles of containment.
Which players have taken the most positions on tournament protocols?
Many actors used social media for the first time to express their frustration with the 14-day quarantine imposed after positive cases appeared in the flights. But after the backlash on social media here, with lots of feedback on their comments, as Alize Cornet posted on Monday, your response to this tactless comment made me realize what you went through last year and how much you suffered. I guess I’m a little worried about all this and I’d better keep my mouth shut.
Djokovic, the world number one, reportedly sent Tiley a list of requests to ease the restrictions. These include moving the players to private homes with tennis courts, a shorter quarantine period and better food and fitness equipment delivered to the players.
The alleged claims were quickly dismissed by Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews. Anyone is free to submit lists of requirements. But the answer is no. And it was expressed very clearly. This was made very clear beforehand.
Have the WTA and ATP tournaments been changed or affected in preparation for the Australian Open?
Like the Australian Open itself, the events that matter most in 2021 will only take place in Melbourne and Adelaide.
In South Australia on the 29th. In January, a unique event called Drive Day will take place, featuring some of the world’s best players, including Serena Williams, Nadal, Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka. The competition will take place at the Memorial Drive Tennis Centre in Adelaide and each professional will only participate in one session.
The popular ATP Cup returns in 2021, but will be held in Melbourne this year. The week-long tournament begins on the 1st. February and will be played with 12 teams.
The only other event taking place in Australia is the WTA Adelaide International, which, interestingly enough, takes place on the 22nd. February, after the Australian Open.