The Australian Open could still be a while away from getting government approval for its quarantine and safety protocols to hold the tournament next season.
Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley, speaking to AAP a few days ago, said the organization were getting to “crunch time” for such decisions. Players and their teams would begin arriving the the country and starting their two-week quarantine in around two months.
But the plans are still being looked at by government officials in Victoria, where the Australian Open is played.
“There’s a whole lot of work to do,” said Martin Pakula, the state’s Minister for Tourism, Sport and Events, speaking to the podcast Break Point.
Like Tiley, Pakula identified quarantine requirements as the top issue. Those arriving in Australia are required to stay in a hotel room for two weeks, but the tournament is requesting an exemption to allow them to stay together in a specified location and train on court.
“They don’t want to obviously sit in the hotel room for 14 days not able to move and do exercise and practice,” he said.
But there are also questions around arrangements for warm-up events in other states. The ATP Cup is played at Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, while there are WTA tournaments in Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart.
The regular ATP and WTA events in Auckland have been cancelled, in part because of delays involving government approval.
If the Australian warm-up events are played, then “a lot of players will quarantine in those cities rather than having to coming through Melbourne” noted the minister, and if not, “then everyone will probably be coming to Melbourne as their first stop.”
There are also transport and crowd plans to be assessed, with the tournament aiming to have between 25 and 50 percent spectators.
“We’ve got to work on travel bubbles, we’ve got to work on the issue of crowds,” he said.
There should be “some sort of crowds,” he added.
Victoria has been under lockdown for several weeks and there are travel restrictions within the country, but these appear likely to be at least partly lifted in the next few weeks.
Even with the details still not agreed, the minister pointed to the “cultural” and “sporting” importance of the Australian Open and indicated it was a priority.
“I’m extremely confident,” he said. “I’m determined that it will happen.”
The Australian Open has informed players of the initial requirements.