Tuesday in Australia was supposed to be a sort of decision day, in that there might be more clarity about when, if, how the Australian summer of tennis will go ahead.
That didn’t happen, but Daniel Andrews, the Premier of the state of Victoria, is “confident” they’re going to get things done.
Cutting the qualies?
A report in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper Monday speculated (well, perhaps it’s educated speculation) that one way to mind the gap between what Tennis Australia and the tours want, and where the government seems willing to go, is to cut out the qualifying.
The US Open chose that route; it also cut the doubles draws in half and eliminated the mixed doubles entirely.
It seems fairly obvious now that the extremely optimistic five-week tentative schedule of tournaments Down Under would be impossible to pull off. The postponement of the players’ arrival until January means they would have no time to train – or quarantine – before the first scheduled week of events.
Cutting the qualifying would eliminate a ton of playing opportunities on both the ATP and WTA Tours. The WTA, especially, has struggled to provide any jobs for its players since the completion of Roland Garros.
But it also would reduce the number of people who need to get into Australia, at a time when international flights are rare and Aussies are still trying to get home.
Already, the juniors event has been postponed.
The Age reports the notion of postponing the start of the Australian Open to February is not the favoured option of Channel 9 (which owns that newspaper). The network’s contract with Tennis Australia pays the federation $60 million AUD/year for the rights to the tournament. And that major chunk of revenue is, logically, the biggest reason to push so hard to hold it.
Andrews: AO “very important”
Here’s what Andrews said, to Fox Sports Australia (via the Daily Telegraph);
“As I’ve said a couple of times, this is a massive event. It’s very important to us. We want it to go ahead, but it has to go ahead safely. As as you would appreciate, we’re talking about 1,000, 1,500 people coming here and having to quarantine,” Andrews said.
On Tuesday, the state of Victoria sent the last COVID-19 patient from its second wave earlier this year home from hospital.
That means there are currently zero active cases of the coronavirus in the state. And not a single hardy soul in the hospital. A tremendous feat, achieved only with the sacrifice of the people who live there. They endured a months-long lockdown.
So it’s clear Andrews wants to get this right.
“Bubble arrangements – you have to protect the integrity of the event, keeping everybody away from each other inside that bubble. And then keeping them away from the Victorian community. Because we jealously guard the fact that we’ve had 24 days with zero cases.
Drawing the conclusion that after an appropriate quarantine period, there will be no need to separate the tennis folks from the Victorian community, it sounds as though they are working on a bubble that would occur before the Grand Slam event.
“Look, we are working through those issues. And whatever arrangements we come to, I think, will be much more contemporary and will supersede anything that’s been said to this point.
“We’re going to get this done, and I’m confident we will.”