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Lead-in events to the Australian Open could be delayed to allow players in strict quarantine the chance to train ahead of the tournaments.

The Australian Open precursor events could be pushed back by at least two days to cater for players currently in strict isolation conditions.   

The Herald Sun reported that Australian Open Tournament Director, Craig Tiley, was also considering reducing the size of each of the tournament’s lead-in events. 

72 players are currently undergoing harder quarantine restrictions after three persons tested positive on three different chartered flights that arrived in Melbourne last week. 

With these players unable to leave their rooms, tournament bosses have expressed concerns that some players won’t be fit to participate and could withdraw from the lead-in events. 

Meanwhile, those who are not in a strict quarantine environment are permitted to train on court for five hours per day, with an extra 90 minutes of allotted gym time.  

Tiley spoke on a zoom call on Tuesday evening, suggesting that the two WTA500 and two ATP250 tournaments could now start on Tuesday 2 January.

The tournament Director also highlighted that some players could be at a disadvantage to those undergoing standard quarantine procedures. 

I’m not too sure what the extent of the advantage will be – we’ll have to wait and see – but it’s certainly an advantage [for the players able to train during this fortnight],” Tiley said.

I used to coach, and I know high-performing athletes getting prepared takes a couple of weeks at least and longer to get to the maximum preparedness.

The tournament’s precursor events were initially set to kick-off on 31 January, after all players had completed their 14-day quarantine.

Tiley had previously said that Tennis Australia had factored in a ‘buffer week’ in anticipation that some players might be unable to train during the two-week isolation period.

“In order for us to pull this off, we’ve had to do it with great partnership with quarantine Victoria and with the Victorian Government, and that is working really well.”

The two weeks with the players and 72 of them being in a hard lockdown, we are providing them with all sorts of exercise equipment in their rooms,” he said earlier in the week. 

“They are going to come out after 14 days in their room, and we will give them some time to prepare, and that is why we had that buffer week in the event that this was going to happen.” 

The news comes as tournament organizers came under fire this week from multiple players, including Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, who compared the quarantine conditions to “being in jail. 

Meanwhile, other players, like 2020 Australian Open doubles champion, Rajeev Ram, have issued their support to the tournament organizers.  

Ram, who was previously coached by Craig Tiley at the University of Illinois, said, “he [Tiley] is trying to make it the best situation possible, but if I’m honest, he’s got more on his plate than he probably thought.”

Knowing him how I do, there’s probably not anyone else that I know in tennis that I would rather have doing this job.” 

In seeing how it’s gone through, it’s rattling him, and if it’s rattling him, you know it’s a lot. I think that just speaks to the magnitude and difficulty of the situation.”  

Tiley also said organizers were considering other options “to try to even it up as much as possible,” but dismissed calls to reduce men’s matches from best-of-five-sets to best-of-three-sets.

It is likely the Australian Open’s 8 February start date will also not be changed. 

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