Australian Open to Stick to Schedule Despite Hard Quarantine

By AAP
January 16, 2021 Updated: January 16, 2021

Craig Tiley has ruled out delaying the Australian Open despite increasing pressure from international players furious about being put into hard quarantine.

After positive COVID-19 tests stemming from their charter flights to Melbourne, almost 50 players are confined to their hotel rooms for the next 14 days with their Open preparations in disarray.

Some players are calling for the February 8 start date to be pushed back to ensure they have adequate time to prepare.

Swiss player Belinda Bencic said she and the other 46 players in lockdown were at a disadvantage.

“We are not complaining (about being) in quarantine. We are complaining because of unequal practice/playing conditions before quite important tournaments,” she tweeted.

But Australian Open boss Tiley ruled out talk of another date change for the event.

“We are planning on February the eighth … and our intention is to continue with those dates,” Tiley told Nine Network’s Today Show.

He said they would consider adjusting the schedule for the lead-in ATP and WTA tournaments which are due to start in Melbourne on January 31 and February 1.

Players have been critical of organisers, with a number saying they were told that only those in close contact on the plane with a positive case would have to go into hard quarantine, and not all on the flight.

Romanian world No.71 Sorana Cirstea said she would have skipped the Open.

“If they would have told us this rule before, I would not play in Australia. I would have stayed home,” she tweeted.

“They told us we would fly at 20 percent capacity, in sections, and we would be a close contact only if my team or cohort tests positive.”

Tiley said players were warned it was one scenario but that the tournament was at the mercy of the Victorian government, who decided they were all a risk to the community.

“The determination of who was and who wasn’t a close contact was going to be entirely up to the health department, and they’re doing what they see necessary in order to keep our community safe,” he said.

“The Chief Health Officer determined that those individuals that were on the plane – everyone on their plane was a close contact.

“We never knew what the situation or decision would be coming in and now we have to manage an environment over the next 14 days for those players who, unfortunately, are not going to have the same conditions of those who are able to get out to practice.”

Tiley said the recent threat of the UK strain of the virus had changed the situation but insisted players knew there was a risk of isolation.

The next 14 days is set to be a public relations nightmare for the Open, with players already slamming the hotel food while Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva saying she’s repeatedly asked to change rooms with a mouse in hers.

Cirstea said she wants to go home but isn’t allowed.

But the players are getting little sympathy from many Australians, with thousands of compatriots unable to travel home while many Victorians are currently locked out of the state.

The players will pocket $100,000 as first-round losers.

Melissa Woods in Melbourne