Sports minister: Australian Open “most likely” to be delayed

MELBOURNE, Australia – Victoria’s Secretary of Sport says the 2021 Australian Open in Melbourne will “most likely” be delayed by a week or two from its scheduled start on January 18.

Martin Pakula also said negotiations between different levels of government and tennis officials were nearing completion and the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year was expected to go ahead.

‘There are a number of possible dates on the table. I’ve seen reports suggesting it will likely be delayed for a week or two. I think that’s still the most likely, ‘Pakula said Wednesday. But it is not the only option. As you know, the French Open was delayed for months and Wimbledon did not occur at all.

“I still think it is much more likely that it will be a shorter than a longer delay. I don’t want to repeat myself excessively, but these are very complex negotiations. “

Australian Open tournament director and Chief Executive of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, said last weekend that the final dates should be confirmed within two weeks. The Australian Open is usually held in the last two weeks of January, which coincides with Australia’s summer school holidays.

Victoria was badly hit by a second wave of COVID-19, forcing the city of Melbourne into a prolonged lockdown, a night clock and travel and other restrictions in the state. But there are no more active cases, and the last deaths from the virus in the state were on Oct. 28.

Pakula, the sports minister, declined to comment on the players’ quarantine arrangements and their entourages amid speculation that the trial could be shortened to just 10 days, except to reaffirm they should definitely be quarantined. All arrivals in Australia are currently required to undergo a 14-day hotel quarantine.

“The precise nature of that quarantine, whether it’s their own bubble or something more common, is still part of those conversations,” Pakula said. “The quarantine requirements will be those that will eventually be agreed with public health (authorities) and then it is a matter for the ATP and the WTA whether they are acceptable.”

Officials conducted some 10,000 coronavirus tests before and during the successfully staged US Open in New York in September, with Frenchman Benoit Paire being the only player to give a positive answer to COVID-19.

“An extremely rigorous testing regime will apply to the players both before leaving the port from which they come and when they arrive,” Pakula said. “And then I consistently imagine the time they are in their (biosecure) bubble.”

Last week, Tennis Australia announced that all run-up tournaments usually held in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide would be moved to the state of Victoria to avoid conflicts with Australia’s various domestic border restrictions. But doubts arose over the run-up events when Victoria’s Prime Minister Dan Andrews said the negotiations over those tournaments and players’ quarantines were far from a closed deal.