November 25, 2020

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Australian tennis summer moved to Victoria – but Premier says, ‘Hold your horses”

Victoria

Melbourne and the state of Victoria will be tennis's epicentre in January, per the Herald Sun (Stephanie Myles/Opencourt.ca)

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In an exclusive scoop, Melbourne’s Herald Sun confirms what we’d been reporting might well be the case.

All Australian summer tennis tournaments normally scheduled for cities like Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and others will be moved.

According to Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley, they will all relocate to the Australian state of Victoria before – and after – the 2021 Australian Open.

“The big news is that we are now backing one horse and that is Victoria, because this is where the Australian Open is,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told the Herald Sun, confirming the news.

The newspaper also reports that as a result, quarantine plans will change. All of the players who would have completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine around Australia will now do it in Melbourne.

The players would be allowed to play and train during the quarantine. But they won’t be allowed to go anywhere other than the hotels and the tennis courts.

Tiley’s estimate of the crowd allowed on site at the Australian is now “at least up to 25 per cent,” per the Herald Sun.

Tournaments united in making announcements

After this story made the rounds, several of the tournaments made announcements on Twitter confirming they would not be held in 2021.

https://twitter.com/HobartTennis/status/1328101876139659264

But … NOT SO FAST

Despite the positive spin from the master of spin, Tiley, Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews says nothing is yet set.

“The notion that this is all a done deal, and there’s going to be all these tennis players turn up now, that’s not that is not settled, not settled at all,” Andrews told The Age.

“We’ve got to work through those things in a methodical way. It’s an important event. Absolutely. But avoiding a third wave is arguably even more important, but we’ll keep working through those issues. I think we can have the event go ahead, but it’s going to have to look different,” he added.

“The notion that this is all tied up with a bow, it’s a done deal. That’s simply wrong,” Andrew told The Age. “The public health team need to sign off on all of these arrangements. And they are just not settled. We want the event to happen just like we want the Boxing Day Test. But the thing about the cricket is, compared to the tennis, it’s a tiny group of people that we think we can quarantine. The challenges involved in the Australian Open are very, very different.”

No kidding.

In other words – as with most of the tournaments – Tiley doesn’t decide. The government decides.

Tennis Australia had to make a call

In the end, Tennis Australia finally had to pull the trigger and make a decision.

And in the end, leaking the story to the Herald Sun got the “done deal” impression out there first.

Then, along comes the government to pour a bucket of slightly cold water on the thing and look like the party poopers.

Open Court broke the news of the tentative schedule on the women’s side on Friday – locations to be determined.

But players need to leave for Down Under in less than a month. They have been basically left in the dark as to what arrangements to make.

Tiley told the Herald Sun the other Australian states couldn’t guarantee the players would be able to travel freely between states by January. Nor could they ensure players would still be able to train during the quarantine period.

Victoria
Adelaide will be out of luck for a second edition of its new joint event in 2021, as Melbourne and the state of Victoria will host the entire Australian summer of tennis. (Stephanie Myles/Opencourt.ca)

So that means no Brisbane, no Hobart, No Adelaide, no Canberra, and no ATP Cup in cities like Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.

(In fact, it may be that there is no ATP Cup at all – to be determined).

Still no details on quarantine

On the downside, Tiley told the Herald Sun they still don’t have any firm plans about how that quarantine will work.

The relentlessly positive tournament director is “pretty confident” of being able to upsize the crowd at Olympic Park.

He told the Herald Sun he’s confident that if cases of coronavirus remain at basically zero for another six weeks, “the government will look differently at crowds.”

It’s not clear which of the leadup tournaments – and there are many, as outlined in our piece Friday – will be held in Melbourne.

Tiley said they would like to move some of the tournaments to “regional Victoria”.

Just a few days ago, it was announced that Tennis Australia had concluded a deal for the Adelaide event for the next 10 years. Included in that agreement, per the Adelaide Advertiser, was first dibs on the next Davis Cup or Fed Cup home tie.

But that 10-year deal will now not include 2021.

Logistics daunting

Wherever they end up holding all the events, the logistics are daunting.

Putting aside the significant protocols that will have to be put in place on the health side, there’s significantly more to be done.

There is ATP signage, WTA signage, ITF signage and Challenger signage.

And then, there is ATP Cup signage. We’ve heard that, at best, the 18-team competition might be reduced to eight teams.

At worst – the most likely scenario – it won’t be held at all.

The different governing bodies have different testing protocols. Actually, they have different everything.

Tennis Australia will then have to transform Melbourne Park back into full Grand Slam mode, with all of the Australian Open advertisers.

Where to play during qualies?

The Tours have planned tournaments duringthe same week as the Australian Open qualifying, as well.

Tennis Australia will have to scout out potential alternate venues around Victoria. Those venues, unused to holding top-level professional events, will have to be brought up to standard.

Perhaps nearby Kooyong, the former home of the Australian Open, might be a potential site. The annual exhibition event usually held there the week before the Australian Open was cancelled months ago.

As well, places like Bendigo (which has hosted smaller pro events) and Traralgon, home of the Grade 1 warmup for the Australian Open juniors, might be in the mix.

Notably, the Traralgon junior tournament, which typically is held the first week of the Australian Open, is not yet on the ITF junior schedule. Traralgon is about a two-hour drive from Olympic Park.

Bendigo is about the same distance, in the opposite direction.

Also? All of that costs. A lot.

We hear that the city of Melbourne and the state of Victoria are prepared to bust the marketing budget to help make all this a reality.

But it’s going to be a massive undertaking.