Australian Open chief executive Craig Tiley is reassuring players that the delayed season-opening Grand Slam tournament will get under way on February 8 and has asked for patience with the logistics and quarantine planning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The world’s leading tennis players are set to start arriving in Melbourne from January 15 and must undergo 14 days in hotel quarantine, although they will be allowed to practice for limited periods daily in a bio-secure bubble.
Australian Open organisers are chartering up to 20 flights from Dubai, Singapore and Los Angeles to bring players to Melbourne.
“There have been some unavoidable delays finalising flight details for players and I’d like to take this opportunity to provide an update,” Tiley posted on Twitter.
“There are a lot of pieces to this logistical puzzle and the last few are being finalised right now. We appreciate your patience and are conscious that timelines are very tight.”
The professional circuit resumes this week, with main-draw action on Wednesday at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open, where Sofia Kenin leads the field, and on Thursday at the ATP’s Delray Beach Open.
Women’s singles qualifying for the Australian Open will be staged in Dubai and men’s singles qualifying in Doha, Qatar from January 10
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal will be involved in a 12-team ATP Cup to be held at Melbourne Park, along with a WTA tournament and an ATP 250 event, from February 1 to 5 to give players some exposure in Australia before the season’s first major.
Despite a small recent outbreak of coronavirus in some parts of Sydney and Melbourne, organisers are still planning to have limited crowds at the Australian Open.
Tennis Australia is hoping to have up to 35 per cent capacity at Melbourne Park, all with ticketed seating and divided into three zones to minimise movement around the sprawling complex. There’s still a chance that there will be no crowds if the number of coronavirus cases in Melbourne spikes and triggers tighter health and travel restrictions. – AP