Australian Open plans thrown into chaos by Victoria’s refusal to allow incoming players until January 1

Tennis Australia’s plans for the Australian Open have been thrown into chaos by a Victorian government decision to refuse access to any incoming tennis players until Jan 1.

After the verbal warning sent out by Victorian premier Daniel Andrews on Monday, when he said that “this [a full-scale Australian Open] is not a done deal at all”, the state government has decided that it doesn’t want any visiting athletes to start their quarantine until New Year’s Eve.

Given the requirement for anyone entering the country to serve two weeks of quarantine before they can leave their bio-secure hotel, this will make it difficult for a build-up tournament to be held before the scheduled dates of the Australian Open – which are Jan 18-31.

The Telegraph understands that Tennis Australia has until Friday to submit a revised plan. One possible scenario would be to delay the start of the Australian Open for a week to allow for some advance competition.

Wriggle room is desperately being sought for what is a deeply unsatisfactory position. One other possibility might be for Tennis Australia to persuade the Victorian government that the players should be allowed to compete while in quarantine, as long as they stay in a bubble, which is how the two most recent slams, the French Open and US Open, were administered.

That would solve the most awkward problem, which is to prevent the players from going straight from their off-season into the year’s first slam without so much as a competitive match along the way.

In a briefing to players given last week by the Women’s Tennis Association, TA had laid out plans for two weeks of tournaments before the Australian Open, and two more weeks after, making the whole Australian swing a six-week block. The required date of arrival to compete in the first events was to be Dec 14. All of the tournaments were to be held in the state of Victoria, some in Melbourne and others in outlying country towns such as Bendigo.

But there are other significant issues involved with even travelling out to Australia in the first place. Flights are hard to come by and prices are brutal. Many players may decide that the risk-reward ratio of making the trip is too unfavourable, and simply stay at home.

Another possible casualty is the ATP Cup, the new team event which got off to a largely successful start in January. Some predictions had suggested that it might run with a reduced field of eight teams, rather than the 24 who competed this year. But even that is now looking optimistic while certain standard elements of the Australian Open – such as a qualifying tournament – must also be hanging by a threat.

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