Tennis: Australian Open delay 'pure speculation': Organisers

MELBOURNE • Tennis Australia (TA) yesterday dismissed multiple media reports claiming the start of the Australian Open is set to be pushed back from January to February or March due to Covid-19 protocols in the country.

The Herald Sun quoted Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews as saying he was "very confident" of hosting the event but the exact timing and arrangements "are not settled yet".

However, with the state government yet to officially sign off on any tournaments, the newspaper yesterday said the year's first Grand Slam risked being deferred.

The Australian Open has not been held outside of January since 1987 and organisers are discussing quarantine arrangements with the Victoria state government.

In response to the reports, TA insisted nothing had been finalised yet. "It's pure speculation," its spokesman said.

"Earlier in the week, we... (said) how we continue to work closely with the Victorian government and we will update with more information as soon as possible, and there's no update from that at the moment."

Australian tennis commentator Brett Phillips believes the hard-court Grand Slam "is certain to be delayed, but a final decision has not been reached on if it will be delayed by weeks or months".

He told local radio station 1116 SEN yesterday: "It's chaos, it's delicate discussions, it's crazy.

"It's incredible times for TA. I'd hate to be a TA administrator or a sports administrator full stop in 2020.

"Next year, it's not going to get back to normal for so many sports.

"My strong feeling, just on the situation that's happened in Victoria in the past seven or eight months and our Premier, who's taken a fair bit of criticism for the whole hotel quarantine bungle, is that they're taking a very cautious approach.

"I've just got a very strong feeling the Australian Open is going to be pushed back possibly to March or April.

"This is certainly one of the scenarios that was on the table, it was talked about.

"There's no doubt the Australian Open won't happen on its scheduled date.

"It's just a matter of whether they move it back a week or push it back to March, April."

The TA had planned for players and their entourages to arrive in Victoria in mid-December to have time to undertake a mandatory two-week quarantine period.

But local authorities are against any early arrival and they have also not confirmed whether practice will be allowed during quarantine.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2020, with the headline 'Aussie Open delay 'pure speculation': Organisers'. Print Edition | Subscribe