The Australian Open has avoided a potential problem surrounding its hotel arrangements, with organizers saying they have secured another location in response to complaints by local residents.
Tennis Australia and the Australian state government of Victoria have agreed upon quarantine requirements and other safety protocols in order to allow the tournament to be played. Various hotels across the city will be used by players and their teams during their stay in Melbourne, which includes a two-week quarantine upon arrival.
Among them was the Melbourne Westin, but according to the Melbourne Age, penthouse residents in the building objected to the move and were aiming to block it in court. Talks between the hotel and the residents did not lead to an agreement and the plan was cancelled, said the newspaper.
But the tournament had found another location, government officials confirmed.
“We have gone through the process of securing a new site,” Victoria’s police minister Lisa Neville told local press.
The minister also noted that they had adequate personnel for the quarantine, following concerns that the event would rely on private security guards.
“We’ve recruited 1,100 staff to do the Australian Open arrangements—the residential support officers, the health people, infection-prevention control and on top of that, there will be the police,” she said.
The tournament also said that it had arranged enough rooms for players as a whole.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 5, 2021
“Several hotels in Melbourne have already been secured,” said a statement from Tennis Australia.
According to the Melbourne Age, the cancellation could include Tennis Australia having to compensate the hotel, which would add to the AU$40 million cost of the player bubble.
Players can begin to arrive in Australia starting next week, though have yet to be notified of travel arrangements, according to reports. They are supposed to arrive January 15-17 for a two-week quarantine before competing in the Australian Open. Tennis Australia committed to organize travel for players as part of strict government requirements around the tournament being played.
But the Daily Mail was told that plans were apparently “changing by the day” and players had still not had their journey finalized, though they will have the choice of leaving from a few different locations, including Dubai, where Australian Open women’s qualifying will be held.
WTA player Madison Keys also told Tennis Channel in a TV interview that players have not heard any further from the tournament:
Pros also appear to be concerned about the quarantine, where they are required to stay in their room at all times except for five hours of training a day under tight controls.
Australian Storm Sanders, who will be competing in Aussie Open qualifying, told the Melbourne Age she has been getting questions from fellow competitors.
“I’ve had quite a few players message… they haven’t really had to do hard quarantine as such,” she said. “A lot of them have asked, ‘Is it really going to be that strict? Are we not allowed to leave the room?’ I had to explain, ‘Yes, it’s a government direction. You’re not allowed to leave your room.’
“Everyone seems pretty OK with it, to be honest. They’re like, ‘I’m still allowed to practice. I get my five hours a day.'”
On Tuesday, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley took to social media to provide an update.
There have been some unavoidable delays finalising flight details for players and I’d like to take this opportunity to provide an update.
— Craig Tiley (@CraigTiley) January 5, 2021
The qualifying, usually played on the Australian Open grounds, is now off site—the men’s event will be played in Doha and the women’s in Dubai. Qualifiers, alternates and Australian players will then go to Australia and join the rest of the field for quarantine.
A week of warmup events in Melbourne is scheduled before the Australian Open.