MELBOURNE, Australia – The Minister of Sports for the State of Victoria said that the Australian Open in Melbourne in 2021 will “probably” be postponed for one or two weeks from the scheduled start on January 18.
Martin Pakula also said that negotiations between different levels of government and tennis officials are close to a conclusion and that the first Grand Slam tennis tournament is expected to take place this year.
“There are a lot of potential dates on the table. I have seen reports suggesting it will probably be delayed for a week or two. “I think that is still likely,” Pakula said on Wednesday. “But that is not the only option. As you know, the French Open was many months late and Wimbledon did not happen at all.
“I still think it is much more likely that it will be shorter than a longer delay. “I do not want to repeat myself unnecessarily, but these are very complex negotiations.”
Australian Open tournament director and Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tilly said last weekend that deadlines should be confirmed within two weeks. The Australian Open usually takes place in the last two weeks of January, coinciding with the summer school holidays in Australia.
Victoria was hit hard by the second wave of KOVID-19, forcing the city of Melbourne into a long blockade, night curfew and travel and other restrictions across the country. But there are no more active cases and the last deaths from the virus in the country were on October 28.
Pakula, the sports minister, did not comment on the quarantine arrangements of the players and their entourage amid speculation that the process could be shortened to just 10 days, except to confirm that they would definitely be quarantined. All arrivals in Australia must currently undergo a 14-day hotel quarantine.
“The exact nature of that quarantine, whether it is their bubble or something more frequent, is still part of those conversations,” Pakula said. “The quarantine requirements will be those that are ultimately agreed with the public health (authorities) and then it will be a matter for the ATP and the rankings whether or not they are acceptable.”
Officials conducted about 10,000 coronavirus tests before and during the successful US Open in New York in September, with Frenchman Benoit Pair the only player to return a KOVID-19 test.
“An extremely rigorous testing regime will apply to players before they leave the port of entry and when they arrive,” Pakula said. “And then I imagine constantly during the time they are in their (biosafety) bubble.”
Last week, Tennis Australia announced that all the major tournaments usually held in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide would be relocated to Victoria to avoid any conflicts with Australia’s various border restrictions. But he doubted the leading events when Victorian Prime Minister Dan Andrews said negotiations on those tournaments and player quarantines were far from over.