The Australian Open and all the regular interstate leadup tournaments for the season’s first tennis major will be staged in Melbourne in January in a bid to minimize risks for players travelling and quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tennis Australia will transfer the tournaments from Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart to Melbourne, where a quarantine and practice hub will be set up for the sport’s elite players.
Australia’s international borders are restricted, and there is still differing domestic travelling restrictions between states.
Tennis Australia said logistics, including draw sizes and scheduling, were being worked through for the weeks ahead of the Australian Open, which is due to start Jan. 18.
Some professional sports competitions in Australia, including the National Rugby League, the Australian Football League and Super Rugby, went ahead with some players living and playing in bio-secure hubs during the season.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told the Herald-Sun newspaper that organizing the tennis was different “because we are bringing in a lot of international people and their entourage so we’ve got to ensure they stay on a very rigid, tough lockdown.”
Tiley said moving all tournaments and players to Victoria state would mean that late changes to interstate travel restrictions would have no impact on the tournament.
It will be a similar buildup to that of the U.S. Open, the first of the tennis majors held after the global sports shutdown for the coronavirus, when the Cincinnati tournament was moved to New York ahead of the Grand Slam event.
Australian Open organizers are hoping the Victoria state government will allow spectators at Melbourne Park for the Australian Open. At this stage, the state government is allowing a crowd of up to 25 per cent capacity at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Australia vs. India test match starting Dec. 26.