Tournament director Craig Tiley insists the 2021 Australian Open will go ahead in Melbourne Park despite coronavirus surge in Victoria….
Tournament director Craig Tiley insists the 2021 Australian Open will go ahead in Melbourne Park despite coronavirus surge in Victoria.
Tiley, who is also the head of Tennis Australia, remains confident that the 2021 edition of the ‘Happy Slam’ will be played in its usual location and attract the top players.
A surge of cases in the state of Victoria led to Melbourne residents being ordered back into lockdown in early July, and the state government of New South Wales – the state which includes Sydney – reportedly reached out to offer to hold the Australian Open in January 2021.
‘It hasn’t even crossed my mind.
‘Heaven and earth will be moved to make it work in Melbourne. I don’t see any scenario possible where the Australian Open would move.’
The 2020 Australian Open, which saw Novak Djokovic win a record eighth men’s singles title and Sofia Kenin claim her maiden major title, was the only Grand Slam tournament to have been played under ‘normal’ circumstances this season. Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since the Second World War, while the French Open was rescheduled from May to September and will be played with limited numbers of spectators.
The US Open is the worst affected. The tournament is currently scheduled to be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September, but popular perception is that it hovers on the brink of cancellation. The news that the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., which was supposed to take place from 14-21 August and be the first ATP Tour tournament since early March, has been cancelled has only lent strength to that perception.
Citi Open organisers cited travel restrictions and ‘troubling health and safety trends’ as the reasons behind the cancellation, and certainly the biggest stumbling block for the US Open is the possibility that players heading from the USA to Europe could be required to quarantine. This would mean their chance to play the European clay-court season, which begins at the Madrid Open the day of the US Open men’s final, is compromised.
Tiley voiced doubts that top players will compete at the US Open, but insists the Australian Open is in a very different position:
‘All of the top players, both on the women’s side and the men’s side, they look at Australia to possibly come here early in December.
‘You’re going to be in an environment where you feel safe, the sun is shining and most of them are coming from the northern hemisphere where it will be the middle of winter … and they can play right through until the end of January.
‘Most of them – Roger Federer included – [are] not playing the rest of the year and is looking to the Australian Open to launch 2021. In fact all of them I’ve spoken to – there’s not one that hasn’t – are looking to the beginning of 2021 and the beginning of the new season as the new hope for tennis globally.
‘I personally think that some of the top players will be in doubt [for the rest of 2020] and that’s simply because they may feel it’s too soon. It’s nothing against the US Open.’
Tiley also said that he feels like the location and situation of Melbourne Park is ideally suited to a tournament that will certainly have to employ some measure of physical and social distancing.
‘Melbourne Park itself is a massive quarantine opportunity for us. The whole network and the whole hub being put next to the city, you can actually create a bubble over Melbourne Park to make it extremely safe. It will be world-leading.’
WTA Tour tennis is currently set to resume at the Palermo Ladies Open on 3 August, followed by tournaments in Prague and Lexington, Kentucky. ATP Tour tennis will resume for the first time since March at the Western & Southern Open to be played behind closed doors in New York from 22 August. The ATP is expected to release a provisional schedule for the remainder of its season in the next couple of weeks.