MELBOURNE • The Australian Open will likely be pushed back by one to two weeks, officials said yesterday, as talks continue over staging the tournament in Melbourne, which has only recently emerged from months of coronavirus lockdown.
A delay for the first tennis Grand Slam of the year, scheduled to begin on Jan 18, was now "most likely", admitted the Victoria state government's Sports Minister Martin Pakula.
"I still think it's much more likely that it will be a shorter rather than longer delay," he said.
The "very complex negotiations" are still under way but he remained confident the event would go ahead in the early part of next year, which would be preferable to suggestions in the Herald Sun's report it may be moved to March.
For eight months, Australia has been virtually closed off from the rest of the world, with a blanket ban on non-residents entering the country and citizens strongly advised against foreign travel.
Australian Open chief Craig Tiley had originally wanted players to start arriving in the country from mid-December so they could undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine before playing traditional warm-up events.
But the plan has been thrown into doubt by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. He reportedly will not allow players to arrive before January, which would make it all but impossible to hold the high-profile ATP Cup and other tournaments before the start of the Australian Open.
Tennis Australia, however, is still planning to shift all build-up tournaments leading to the Grand Slam to Victoria.
Also under discussion is whether players will be able to train or compete during quarantine.
Recently-crowned ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev feels being able to practise is critical for the hard-court Major to take place.
"I'm going to go to Australia when we can to avoid any circumstances that would change your mind about competing there," the world No. 4, fresh off the biggest win of his career in London last Sunday, told CNN.
"If, for instance, you weren't able to compete or to train during quarantine just ahead of the tournament, I don't think the tournament is going to happen."
The Russian added it would be "dangerous" for players to be confined to a hotel room for two weeks after arriving in Australia and then go straight into a Slam.
"(I'm) not complaining that it's boring or something like this," he said.
"It's just that going out from the room after 14 days of not doing anything and (then) playing five sets right away, I think would be really dangerous for the health of any sportsman.
"At least from what was said before, we would be able to practise on tennis courts and practise physically, which is really important.
"I don't think it's going to be possible for anybody to go there (if they) will need to stay in the room for 14 days."
Players and their support staff at the US and French Opens were not required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival but the Victoria government will not make any exception, even for elite athletes.
The Open has not been held outside of January since 1987.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS