February 1 is likely to emerge as the agreed start date of the Australian Open next year. The year’s first Grand Slam has been in the realms of uncertainty following a spike in COVID cases in Australia and a fear of state borders closing to avoid spread.
Worries have also been voiced over a logistical nightmare in the event of a surprise lockdown in Victoria, the host state, or elsewhere. However, reports in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, quoting sources, claim that the players are preparing for a February 1 start to the Australian Open.
The cobwebs around the tournament will clear once the Victorian government consents to let players travel to Melbourne in the first week of January, the reports said.
The Victorian government wants players to start training after serving 14-days of quarantine on reaching Melbourne. However, there’s a growing sense of optimism that the host state might even allow players the leeway of training while in isolation.
The optimism stems from the fear that top stars might pull out if not allowed to train during the quarantine period. A final decision on the start date is likely by Friday.
However, the Victorian government is reportedly adamant on two weeks of quarantine without the option of training.
Tennis Australia, ATP, and WTA are currently in talks with the Victorian government in the hope that it will eventually bend on letting players practice and train during isolation. There’s hope that the government would allow players to train at designated venues, away from the local populace.
All players who have confirmed participation in the tournament are likely to reach Melbourne by January 7.
Veteran Australian tennis player John Millman leads the chorus of voices calling on the Victorian government to let players train during the quarantine period.
“You just can’t do a two-week hard lockdown to get ready for an Australian Open. I don’t think any of the international players would do that. Your body is what pays the bills. You are an injury risk. You can’t go from zero to 100 right away, that’s the biggest risk,” Millman said.
There’s still a slight chance of the tournament kicking off on January 25. But what’s certain is that it won’t start as scheduled on January 18.