Tennis

Australian Open lead-in tournaments set to move to Melbourne

Austadiums   |  Wednesday 18th November 2020
A Melbourne Park show court during the Open

Lead-in tournament to the Australian Open including the ATP Cup and Adelaide International will likely be relocated to Melbourne, although the timing remains up in the air.

Facilities such as the Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney and Memorial Drive in Adelaide were redeveloped through 2019 for the brand-new ATP Cup earlier this year, but they’ll likely miss out on any tennis action at all this coming summer, with the logistics of hosting tournaments around the country and getting players in and out proving too difficult.

While the Australian Open will proceed in January in front of limited crowds at Melbourne Park, there’s a chance it may be delayed with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews refusing to allow international tennis stars to arrive next month and enter quarantine.

It could mean the traditional lead-in tournaments to the first grand slam of the year may be played following the Australian Open throughout February.

The Herald Sun reported the state government was reluctant to allow international players into Melbourne before January, while a source said the holdup was because the inquiry into Victoria’s bungled hotel quarantine is not due to table its final report until late December.

The 2021 Australian Open is scheduled to run between January 18 and 31, meaning players would have little time to prepare for the first grand slam of the year if they arrived on January 1 and entered two weeks of quarantine.

Tennis Australia are confident the tournament will go on but are growing increasingly concerned about the time they have to organise the major event and safely get players into Victoria.

The Australian summer of tennis had a shake-up last summer with the introduction of the ATP Cup, with preliminary rounds played in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, while the finals were played in Sydney. Elite tennis returned to South Australia with the new Adelaide International, while the Brisbane International become a WTA-only event and the Hobart International continued as usual.

Reports earlier in the week suggested all the lead-in tournaments will be shifted to Melbourne and even regional Victoria to ensure international stars don’t get held up in quarantine and can compete in the Australian Open.

Australian Open director Craig Tiley said other states had not been able to guarantee player quarantine arrangements or make a “commitment of open travel between cities’’ during the summer.

Regional centres like Bendigo and Traralgon were also in line to receive tennis tournaments as part of the arrangement. He said lead-in events to the Open would now be “redesigned”.

While the Brisbane and Hobart International organisers released statements on Monday morning stating their tournaments would be relocated, the Victorian Government is yet to confirm any arrangement, saying the talk is purely speculation at this point.

In the release, Craig Tiley said international players would travel directly to Melbourne to quarantine in a "bubble" for two weeks, rather than multiple Australian cities.

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