Australian Open delay ‘most likely’, says state minister

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Australian Open – First Round – Melbourne, Australia, January 14, 2019. A spectator poses in front of the Australian Open logo. REUTERS/Edgar Su

(Reuters) – The Australian Open is likely to be delayed by a week or two as negotiations between organisers, the tennis tours and the Victoria government over health measures continue, the state’s sports minister said on Wednesday.

Tennis Australia (TA) on Saturday dismissed as “speculation” a report that the Grand Slam would be moved back from its scheduled Jan. 18-31 spot in the calendar.

“There’s a number of potential dates on the table,” Victorian Sports and Tourism Minister Martin Pakula told reporters in Melbourne.

“I’ve seen reports that suggest that it’s likely to be delayed by a week or two. I think that’s still most likely.

“But it’s not the only option. As you know, the French Open was delayed by many months and Wimbledon didn’t occur at all. I still think it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter rather than longer delay.”

Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews, who on Wednesday celebrated the state’s 25th day without a new COVID-19 case, said he was confident the tournament would go ahead but that players would have to undergo quarantine.

“We’ll have an Australian Open tennis tournament … but (it’ll) have to look different,” Andrews said.

“The rest of the world is on fire so there will be quarantine for anyone coming to our city and state, there’s just no way around it. I think the timing will be close to the normal timing, those details are being finalised.

“As important as a tennis tournament is, we’re not going to jeopardise our coronavirus status by anything other than the highest standards.”

Negotiations with health authorities over the details of that quarantine were close to a conclusion, Pakula said.

“The quarantine requirements will be those that are ultimately agreed with the public health (authorities) and then it will be a matter for the ATP and the WTA about whether or not they are acceptable,” he added.

“An extremely rigorous testing regime will apply to the players both before they leave the port that they come in from and when they arrive.”

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement on Sunday he was confident he would be able announce the details of the health measures “soon”.

TA also plans to move all of the Australian Open build-up tournaments, including the ATP Cup, to Victoria from cities around the country.