News Australian Open could be forced offshore due to coronavirus border closure

Australian Open could be forced offshore due to coronavirus border closure

australian open 2021
Players, coaches and support staff were forced into quarantine in Victoria and SA, creating disquiet among several top players. Photo: Getty
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The Australian Open could be forced offshore due to the federal government’s budget prediction international borders will stay closed until mid-2022.

ABC Sport understands Dubai and Doha, which hosted men’s and women’s qualifying events ahead of this year’s tournament in Melbourne, would be among the potential host cities if the year’s opening grand slam needed to be relocated.

It is understood players would not be willing to go into hard quarantine in Australia in order to compete, as they did this year.

Players participating in WTA and ATP events around the world are being put in a bubble environment that allows them to train and compete without strict self-isolation.

When they arrive at events in the US and Europe they are required to isolate until they test negative to COVID-19, but are then free to move within the bubble.

The players’ resistance to again spending two weeks in an Australian hotel means an offshore event is one of the scenarios being considered by Tennis Australia, if an agreement cannot be reached with the government.

The Australian Formula One Grand Prix also faces an uncertain future as the race, which has been moved from March to November, will need quarantine arrangements to be relaxed in order to proceed.

The empty stands at the Australian Grand Prix in March last year. Photo: AAP

The Brazilian Grand Prix is scheduled for November 7, which is just two weeks before the Australian Grand Prix is due to be held.

If the Brazilian race goes ahead – an uncertainty due to the current COVID-19 rates in the country – it would be impossible for teams to complete a 14-day hard quarantine period in Melbourne on the current schedule.

Australian Grand Prix chief executive Andrew Westacott said he remains confident the event will find a way to go ahead, and he is working closely with organisers and the Victorian government to put plans in place ahead of time.

“We’re working very, very closely in concert with the Victorian government on every aspect of the COVID-safe plan and also the arrangement for the international contingent,” Mr Westacott said.

“As you can imagine, it’s something very, very complex, it’s very, very much a work-in-progress, and we’re working with the Victorian government, particularly the Department of Health and CQV, on every one of the details right now.”

The Canadian Grand Prix was recently cancelled because Formula One could not come to an agreement for a more flexible quarantine arrangement with the Canadian government.

Grand Prix organisers were planning for a November race in the expectation that all Australians would be vaccinated by then, in accordance with the federal government’s plan that all Australians would have their COVID-19 jabs by October.

Novak Djokovic won a unprecedented ninth Australian Open in extremely comfortable fashion. Photo: AAP

But there is now no definitive timeline on when the rollout will be completed.

The outcome of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation’s negotiations will be watched closely by Tennis Australia as it plans for events in 2022.

ABC Sport understands Australian Open organisers will go ahead with the event overseas, rather than cancel, if an agreement cannot be reached for a more flexible quarantine arrangement.

The tournament contributes more than $300 million to the economy and the money made from hosting the event is a vital source of income for grassroots tennis clubs in Australia.

The majority of tennis players on the tour have already been vaccinated, including Australian world number one Ash Barty.

The 25-year-old revealed she was vaccinated in the US because she could not get answers on a timeline for Australian vaccination before she left the country to compete in Miami in March.