The next Australian Open isn’t scheduled to take place until January 2021, but given the implications of COVID-19, it might not happen at all.
According to Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia, the tournament “will be compromised.”
“Worst-case scenario is no AO (Australian Open),” Tiley told Australian Associated Press (AAP).
“Our best-case scenario at this point is having an AO with players that we can get in here with quarantining techniques and Australian-only fans.”
Tennis Australia currently has four scenarios planned out, depending on what happens over the coming months.
“We’ve modelled the times we have to make decisions, dates we have to make decisions, who it impacts, how it’s going to impact them,” Tiley told AAP.
“We’ve done that for 670 staff. We’ve done that for all of our partners — our media partners, our sponsors and for all the governments and places we rent facilities (from).
“And now we’re working on the international playing group and getting them to understand what each of those scenarios are and what it means for them and how we can action it.”
With restrictions around international travel firmly in place, players from around the globe wouldn’t be able to come to Australia if this was still the case. Even if special dispensation was granted and players self-quarantined upon arrival in Australia, would they be allowed to compete in other tournaments around the country as they usually do?
“Even his [Tiley] best-case scenario presents a fundamental problem for the functioning of the sport, where players flit from city to city each week,” Tumaini Carayol wrote for The Guardian. “Should the players arrive at the Australian Open, it remains to be seen whether they would be able to compete elsewhere.”
Tennis has suffered greatly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as its players rely on international travel to participate in tournaments and earn their living.
This year’s Mutua Madrid Open was turned into a virtual tournament with the likes of Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray swapping their rackets for a Playstation 4 console in order to compete.
The aim of the tournament was to raise money for fellow tennis players who currently have no income due to the cancellation of all matches. While Nadal and Murray will most likely come through the other side of this crisis financially stable, that is not the case for many tennis players who live solely off playing — sans sponsorship deals.
When Nadal was asked if we would see him on a tennis court this year, his response was “I wish, but I doubt it.”
“I am more concerned about the Australian Open than about what will happen at the end of this year,” he told El Pais. “I see 2020 pretty much as a lost year. I have the hope of starting again next year. Let’s hope it is so.”