Australian Open will go ahead despite COVID scare
The Australian Open will proceed as planned and no changes will be made to the start date of the opening grand slam of the year despite a COVID scare forcing 600 players to isolate.
Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley provided an update on the situation after all pre-tournament matches were suspended following a quarantine hotel staff member testing positive for coronavirus.
"The intention is to start the Australian Open on Monday. There is no intention to change," he said.
"As far as the (lead in) tennis goes, we are … planning on continuing with the matches we had scheduled today.
"By 6 o'clock this evening we hope to have the schedule for tomorrow."
Many players and support staff who were at the Grand Hyatt - one of the Melbourne hotels used for quarantine - moved into their own accommodation once quarantine ended.
The Herald Sun understands Tennis Australia coach and former player Peter Luczak, Matt Ebden and Blake Mott were the only Australians who stayed at the hotel.
They were among those considered close contacts of the positive COVID-19 case who had to undergo testing and self-isolate on Thursday until they received a negative result.
Tiley praised the players for their willingness to accept the situation.
"Some have many 14 days in medi-hotels, some have been longer. Some took longer to get used to it. But the majority have been so fantastic," he said.
"We've had so many comments and they've come out and accept and appreciate what Melburnians have been through.
"When we made the calls last night and this morning, they completely accepted it. We're two-thirds of the way through testing. We will finish the testing by 5pm this afternoon.
"They will isolate until we get the results. They're appreciative of the opportunity to play".
Am I playing tomorrow?— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) February 3, 2021
Nightmare scenario for the @AustralianOpen officials & player’s today. Fingers crossed we can trace the infected worker & get all the players back on court. I can’t imagine the lack of sleep for both @CraigTiley & the tournament doctor @carolyn_brod ...hang in there everyone ❤️— Rennae Stubbs OLY (@rennaestubbs) February 3, 2021
Amid concerns among the community, Tiley added that for now, crowd numbers (30,000 per day) would remain the same but the expectation is for all fans attending to wear a mask.
"Even prior to this conversation, we want fans, wherever they go, to always carry a mask," he said.
"And the current guidelines are when you're outside and you can physically distance, you don't need to wear a mask.
"When you go inside, you put on the mask, and even with the new ruling that the Premier gave last night.
"So, our team, our staff and our fans will be wearing a mask indoors."
The Australian Open draw was initially scheduled to take place at 6pm Thursday but will now be delayed until mid-afternoon Friday.
Tiley was hesitant to comment on when a full schedule would be confirmed given the logistics regarding which half of the draw would go first.
"It will be a smaller version to what we've done before, because the focus is obviously to get the draw done and get it out there so everyone can start planning on what they're doing on Monday and who they're watching," he said.
"We'll make the decisions on which half will play where by Saturday, because we've got to get through quite a few matches tomorrow.
"Even if the weather is bad, which I think the forecast is not great, we do have the indoor courts, we'll be able to continue with play. That schedule will come out later today."
✔ Covid test done, now isolate until negative test result 🤐🙌 @SevenFriday @SEVENFRIDAYaus#melbourne #australia #atptour #ausopen #AO21 #tennis #covid #covid19 #watch #watches #sevenfriday pic.twitter.com/t9DVXktcyj— Matt Ebden (@mattebden) February 3, 2021
Commentator and former Australian Open champion Jim Courier also stayed at the hotel.
The timing of the Australian Open draw, which was due to begin at 6pm AEDT on Thursday, remains up in the air.
There's a decent chance it will move, given it's previously been held on Friday mornings and the slight delay wouldn't have an impact on players.
Late on Wednesday night, Tennis Australia released the following statement detailing halting of play.
"Health Authorities have advised us that a hotel quarantine worker has tested positive for COVID-19," the statement read.
"Those associated with the Australian Open who quarantined at the hotel now need to be tested and isolate until they receive a negative test result.
"We will work with everyone involved to facilitate testing as quickly as possible.
"There will be no matches at Melbourne Park on Thursday, 4 February, 2021. An update on the schedule for Friday will be announced later today."
Premier Dan Andrews said: "There is a number of about 500, 600 people who are players and officials and others who are casual contacts.
"They will be isolating until they get a negative test and that work will be done tomorrow."
But with test results generally returned within 24 hours, he said he did not expect the precautionary move to affect Monday's scheduled start of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.
"At this stage, there's no impact to the tournament proper," Mr Andrews told reporters.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien has urged the Victorian Government to make a call on whether to cancel the Australian Open within 48 hours with concerns the event cannot be guaranteed to go ahead.
I'm a big tennis fan and I can't wait till things get back to normal but holding a grand slam in the middle of a global pandemic is irresponsible. Sports are important and loads of people enjoy it but at the and of the day it's simply entertainment. Safety first!#AusOpen #AO2021— Savino (@SavinoHunnego) February 3, 2021
So, is the #AusOpen draw still happening tomorrow 6pm local?— José Morgado (@josemorgado) February 3, 2021
"We don't want to see a situation as we did with the Grand Prix, where crowds were literally turning up, only to be turned away," he said.
"I think people are entitled to know what's happening, and the government should be making their minds up in the next 24 to 48 hours."
The six preparatory tournaments are currently being held at Melbourne Park to get players match fit after their fortnight in quarantine.
While most players were allowed out to train for five-hour blocks during their lockdown, 72 were confined to their hotel rooms 24 hours a day after eight positive COVID-19 cases were detected on the charter flights that brought them to Australia.
Some players only emerged from the strict lockdown over the weekend.
Aggressive restrictions on incoming travel have helped keep the coronavirus at bay in Australia, making it one of the countries still able to have spectators at sports events.
Despite the huge logistic exercise of holding a major tennis tournament during a pandemic, Andrews said sport was not the most important issue.
"I must say that is important to us but the issues are much broader and that is about public health and public safety," he said, but added: "This is one case, there's no need for people to panic."
Victoria had gone 28 days without a locally acquired infection.
The new case prompted a tightening of rules around mandatory mask wearing and a reduction in the limits of how many visitors are allowed in homes.
Daily crowds of between 25,000 and 30,000 are expected to be allowed to watch the Australian Open, equating to some 390,000 spectators across the two-week spectacle - around half the attendance of last year.
YASTREMSKA FAILS TO HAVE SUSPENSION LIFTED
- Marc McGowan
Ukrainian tennis player Dayana Yastremska has vowed to keep fighting her doping ban despite again failing to have her provisional suspension lifted.
However, the 20-year-old's hopes of playing in next week's Australian Open are now over.
The International Tennis Federation announced overnight the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had dismissed Yastremska's appeal of an independent tribunal's decision to deny her appeal application.
Her provisional suspension was imposed on January 7.
The world No.29 travelled to Melbourne and was on one of the charter flights where there was a positive COVID-19 case, so she wasn't able to leave her hotel room during her quarantine period.
"I sadly acknowledge the decision of the CAS to dismiss the expedited appeal to lift my provisional suspension," Yastremska posted on social media.
"I would like to underline that the decisions taken by the ITF Independent Tribunal and the CAS are only related to the provisional suspension.
"Now comes the time to defend myself about the matter of the dispute.
"My team and I are confident in our ability to prove my innocence as the ITF Independent Tribunal will hear from me, witnesses and experts."
Statement about the CAS decision: pic.twitter.com/SYi2GiJBC6— Dayana Yastremska (@D_Yastremska) February 3, 2021
Yastremska revealed she would recompense Tennis Australia of all her flight, accommodation and related expenses.
"I know my presence in Australia has raised some concerns," she wrote.
"The urgent procedure with the ITF Independent Tribunal and the CAS could have lifted my provisional suspension which would have enabled me to compete at the Australian Open.
"That's the reason why I was allowed to travel there.
"I can't express my disappointment (enough) about not taking part in the first slam of the year.
"I am thankful to the authorities for the conditions they have set for the players in such challenging times.
"Thus, I intend to return all the expenses engaged by Tennis Australia on my behalf.
"I remain determined to demonstrate my innocence and clear my name. I wish to thank all my fans for their support."
- with AFP
Originally published as Aus Open will go ahead despite COVID scare