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We’re expecting to hear an announcement on the Australian summer of tennis by the end of next week.

While Tennis Australia continues to thrash out a deal with the Australian Government, it has been rumoured that Tickets for the Australian Open will go on sale on the 26th of November. 

And as the Australian open now looks a cert to go ahead, there are still some difficult scheduling challenges facing tournament officials.

Specifically, concerns have been raised as to whether next year’s Adelaide Open will go ahead following the cancellation of the Adelaide 500 Supercar race, and next year’s cycling Tour Down Under. 

Even after Australia has crushed the virus, recording zero new community cases, the greatest challenge facing Tennis Australia surrounds whether Australia’s strict internal border rules will allow players to travel between states to participate in the Open’s precursor events.

To have those multi-city events, we would need two things. We would need a quarantine plan that gets approved by each state,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

The second one is we would need a commitment from governments that there can be free travel from state to state.

Internal borders are still very much shut in Australia and despite its low infection rates, there is a chance that a spike in cases in December or January, could cause states to close up again, meaning players could get stuck in lockdown outside of Melbourne. 

The ideal scenario would be for state governments to provide players with an exemption to travel should border restrictions come into play. 

The other option, and perhaps the slightly more realistic backup plan, would be to host the ATP Cup, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Hobart International tournaments in Melbourne. 

But this may not be the most favourable plan.

Given the success of the inaugural Adelaide International this year, Tournament Director Alistair MacDonald stated that they were “keen as mustard to run a second one.”  

MacDonald admitted that there was some “element of risk” as we approach the tournament, but advised that tournament officials were doing everything they could to mitigate that risk while working alongside the South Australian Government to put the event on.

Looking at all these scenarios is the right thing to do, but we haven’t made a decision on any of these, albeit we are getting closer to where we have to make a decision.” 

Let’s hope, collectively, we can ensure players can get to Melbourne to play the Australian Open because we want them to get to Melbourne,” MacDonald said. 

It seems the South Australian Government are also keen for the event to go ahead as planned, with their commitment to the Adelaide International forming part of a contractual agreement that could be breached if the event is canceled. 

We made a significant investment a year or so ago in Memorial Drive, as part of that deal was a locked-in contract for a period of time for the Adelaide International tournament,” said South Australia Treasurer Rob Lucas.

It would only be if we couldn’t deliver on our particular contractual arrangements in South Australia that anyone could seek to take it.

“We’re not contemplating at this stage, the ‘what-ifs’, because at this stage, we’re contemplating ‘how can we deliver it safely?’” 

And it appears Tennis Australia has a plan to answer the treasurer’s question. 

Tiley has already confirmed the aim is to have players quarantine for two weeks in bio-secure bubbles around the country, where they will be able to train and prepare for the upcoming tournaments. 

The two-week controlled bubble will be a very strict environment. The objectives will be to protect the community, so the players, while they’re training, will only go from their hotel room to the courts, and then back to the hotel room in a secure protected environment,” Tiley said to The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. 

It’s likely though these bubbles will be potentially some of the safest places in the world with Tiley confirming that like most other sporting events, “there will obviously be significant testing in that bubble.”

Judgement Day

And although debates around scheduling rage on, Tennis Australia have advised that a decision on how the summer tennis calendar will play out will come at the end of next week. 

Ultimately the decision rests on the challenge of whether Tiley’s two conditions will be met and if players will be allowed to move between states to participate in tournaments.

Should Tiley’s quarantine plan and border restrictions not be approved by state governments, Tiley admitted that “we’re going to have to move to a one-city only event. Right now I’d say it’s 50-50. If NSW says ‘regardless of the infection rate or if there’s a rise, we’ll give you an exemption’, that’s what we need.

Tiley had even floated the idea that players could compete in sanctioned tournaments while undergoing quarantine. 

The fortnight quarantine period has caused more havoc in the tennis world than many have realised. 

Being a contributing factor to the cancellation of the WTA tournament in Limoges, and the reason why multiple players, like Andy Murray, are cutting their seasons short early.  

So long as players are constantly tested and remain in a secure bubble along with match officials, this proposal could be a viable option for Tennis Australia.  

A similar plan has worked in the NBA this season, fairly successfully might I add, and has similarly been in place at both the U.S. and French Opens. Although the proposals Tiley is making seem a lot stricter than their major counterparts. 

But one massive flaw in this proposal is that it would likely mean fans wouldn’t be allowed to attend these events, with it taking only one infected player to transfer the virus on to spectators and other competitors alike.  

Tiley confirmed that no government had approved this proposal and it perhaps could be a little far fetched as an alternative right now, considering players are already making plans to fly out to Australia. 

With Tiley remaining optimistic about the scheduling challenges facing Tennis Australia, we think it’s fairly likely an arrangement will be reached on quarantine rules and interstate travel over the coming week. 

Asked whether the Australian Open could be scrapped for 2021 if Tennis Australia couldn’t reach an agreement, Tiley stated, “at this point, no.”

Featured Image By DestinationAlan // Margaret Court Arena during a day session at the 2017 Australian Open // https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Margaret_Court_Arena_(Australian_Open_2017).jpg // CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia CommonsDownload permissions

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