Craig Tiley, Australian Open Tournament Director, is confident that the 2021 tournament will go on as planned. Thus, it will be hosted in January slot with the prize money, and fans will be in attendance as well. The prize purse might be reduced due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m optimistic and positive that we’ll have an event and it’ll be in Melbourne” – Tiley
Despite the fear that it could be postponed next year, organizers are telling fans that they hope it will happen. Melbourne, the capital city of Australia, is currently in full lockdown due to a rise in COVID 19 cases. Tiley and the organization have been drawing strategies and to make sure that the 2021 tournament can go ahead successfully ever since Novak Djokovic was crowned in 2020 champion in January.
The selling of tickets will begin in October, and five biosecure bubbles will be opened to the public six weeks before the tournament begins to help players avoid the most restrictive quarantine measures when they arrive. The building security bubbles and testing facilities will be in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and Melbourne to allow players to arrive at any time, acclimatize and train for the event.
Tennis Australia Chief Executive spoke to sky sports, “we’re going to open our bio-secure bubble from the 1st December and players can come at any time. When players arrive, our expectation is they’re not going to be in a hotel for 14 days like the current requirements are,” he said. “We’ll have an exemption within this bio-secure bubble. We’ve said every year that we’re the ‘happy slam,’ but now we’re saying we’re the ‘very safe and happy slam.’
Tennis Australia was quick to establish crisis management ahead of the 2021 season due to the bushfire smoke that affected the 2020 tournament. For each potential scenario, there is a plan put in place. The first scenario requires the event to be held in the same way as 2020, and the second scenario was a tournament with limited crowds. Scenario three will be a tournament played behind closed doors, a broadcast-only event. And scenario five is no event at all, according to Tiley.
Fans will have the chance to attend under strict health protocols
With the issue concerning fans’ attendance, Tiley has confirmed that there will be 400,000 spectators at Melbourne Park, which will be half of the original attendance. Social distancing protocol will strictly be carried out because of the 2.5 kilometers area at the park. Fans can distance themselves from each other and still occupy the stadium. Wearing face masks will also be compulsory.
“We’ve established a strategy and an operational plan for all fans and how they will be positioned around the site. I am optimistic and positive that we’ll have an event, and it’ll be in Melbourne. It will have some crowds, and it’ll be the beginning of the kind of, getting back to the way we were”. Tiley said.
The main tours will be consulted if they are forced to, rather than act on impulse like the French Open organizers, who had moved their events from May to the end of September. Tiley confirmed. The Australian Winter would rule out the months of May and July as “prospective windows.”
In Tennis Australia’s quest to add more events alongside the Australian Open to help the players prepare, they have scheduled the second edition of the ATP Cup to take place in January. The ATP Cup worth $15m was debuted last year, a joint venture between the men’s tour and TA. It also includes women’s event in Adelaide, Brisbane, and Hobart.
“We are talking a lot to the ATP every week. We both want to run it. It was a great start-up event. It was massively successful. We are planning on having it in three cities, and we’re working with those three cities.” Tiley explained. “We’ve got a lot of work to do logistically to make this all work. We need to make sure the players are safe. But I think they’re going to be pretty hungry to want to play some tennis with some crowds by the time we get to January.”
Not only is the assurance given to fans that the tournament will be played next year good news to them, but the best news is also the fact that they will be in attendance and that’s what most people need to keep their sanity in check amidst this pandemic