Tiley confident Australian Open plans close to being finalised amid cancellation reports

By Sports Desk December 01, 2020

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley is confident plans for next year's event will be finalised "very soon".

Uncertainty remains over the scheduled first grand slam of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The start of the Australian Open looks set to be pushed back by a week or two, having originally been scheduled to begin on January 18, amid questions about the players' travel and preparation.

In a statement, Tiley said details were close to being finalised, with reports on Tuesday having said the event could be cancelled.

"Tennis Australia continues to work closely and productively with the Victorian government and we are confident we will be in a position to finalise details for the Australian Open 2021 very soon," he said.

"We are also in constant communication with the global tennis community, including the Tours, the players and their teams, as we consult with them on plans for the event and how players can safely practise and prepare for a grand slam tournament under the Victorian government's proposed quarantine conditions.

"Understandably there has been public speculation on the various plans under consideration as well as the many confidential conversations that have taken place and our position remains clear – everything will require approval and agreement from the Victorian government before it can be confirmed.

"The protection and safety of the community remains paramount in the discussions.

"Our team continues to work on delivering a fantastic – and safe – AO 2021 for the players, the fans, our partners and our staff. We look forward to announcing more details, including when tickets will go on sale, very soon."

Victoria has been without a new coronavirus case since October 30.

The Australian Open has started in January in every year since 1987, but Victorian minister for tourism, sport and major events Martin Pakula said last week next year's tournament was likely to be delayed by a week or two.

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    Victoria Azarenka called for greater understanding from players stuck in hotel quarantine ahead of the Australian Open.

    After being exposed to coronavirus on flights, 72 players – including Azarenka – have been forced into a two-week quarantine ahead of the tournament beginning on February 8.

    Novak Djokovic reportedly made several requests, which were rejected, of officials for players in quarantine, while Roberto Bautista Agut compared the conditions to prison.

    But amid complaints on social media, two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka pleaded for players to be more understanding in a measured statement.

    "Dear players, coaches, entourage and Australian community. I would like to take a moment and address some of my colleagues as well as the media around the world," the Belarusian wrote on Twitter.

    "This has been a very difficult time for a lot of us that did not expect to end up in the situation we are in today, myself included. To be in a 14-day hard quarantine is very tough to accept in terms of all the work that everyone has been putting in during their off-season – to be prepared for playing our first grand slam of the year. I understand all the frustration and feeling of unfairness that has been coming and it is overwhelming.

    "We have a global pandemic, nobody has a clear playbook of how to operate at full capacity and without a glitch, we all have seen it last year. Sometimes things happen and we need to accept, adapt and keep moving.

    "I would like to ask all my colleagues for cooperation, understanding and empathy for the local community that has been going through a lot of very demanding restrictions that they did not choose, but were forced to follow.

    "I would like to ask to be sensitive as well to the people who have lost their jobs and loved ones during this horrible time for all of us around the world. I would like to ask all of us to have respect for people who work tirelessly to try to make our lives easier.

    "I would like to ask the media to please have consciousness on the impact and influence you bring to this situation and to the community. I would like for the people in the community to know and understand that we have it as our top priority to ensure the health [and] safety of all the people.

    "Lastly, I would like for us to please try to support each other as much as someone can or is willing to. Things are always easier when you have a compassionate environment and work together."

    Victoria endured tough restrictions after a second coronavirus wave last year.

    On Tuesday, the state recorded its 13th consecutive day of no locally acquired cases of COVID-19.

  • It's a complete disaster – Bautista Agut compares hotel quarantine to prison It's a complete disaster – Bautista Agut compares hotel quarantine to prison

    Roberto Bautista Agut labelled the quarantining of players ahead of the Australian Open a "complete disaster", comparing it to prison.

    After being exposed to coronavirus on flights to Australia, 72 players are in hotel quarantine for two weeks ahead of the tournament starting on February 8.

    Players have hit out at the conditions, although tournament director Craig Tiley insisted on Tuesday most were happy to be in Australia.

    But world number 13 Bautista Agut slammed the position players had been put in.

    Told he looked like he was in prison, the Spaniard told Sport5: "It's the same, it's the same, with Wi-Fi.

    "These people have no idea about tennis, about practice courts, has no idea about anything, so it's a complete disaster because of that, because the control of everything.

    "It's not Tennis Australia, it's the people from the government."

    Victoria on Tuesday recorded its 13th consecutive day of no locally acquired coronavirus cases, with three of the four in hotel quarantine linked to the Australian Open.

    Bautista Agut, a 2019 quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park, said two weeks in quarantine would be difficult.

    "I did work in the room but it's not the same," he said.

    "I was feeling very, very tight and I cannot imagine staying two weeks like this. It's really, really tough."

  • They were suggestions, not demands – Tiley defends Djokovic They were suggestions, not demands – Tiley defends Djokovic

    Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley defended Novak Djokovic, saying the world number one had provided "suggestions", not demands.

    With 72 players forced into quarantine for two weeks after being exposed to coronavirus on flights, Djokovic reportedly made demands regarding their conditions.

    Among them, the eight-time Australian Open champion reportedly asked for players to be moved to private houses with tennis courts, with his requests rejected.

    But Tiley played down the reports, saying Djokovic had simply made suggestions.

    "Novak wrote a note, these weren't demands, these were suggestions," he told Channel 9 on Tuesday.

    "But he too is understanding what two weeks of lockdown means."

    Tiley also backed the players despite reports and social media posts suggesting they were unhappy about being forced into quarantine.

    "Last night we spent quite a bit of time with the playing group going through a number of different items because they've just been here for a few days getting used to this quarantine environment," he said.

    "I have to say on that call there were about 500 players and the vast majority are happy to be here, pleased to be here and really getting ready in the next two weeks to be able to get out and play in the lead-in events and then play the Australian Open on February 8.

    "I think the reports we're reading and the things we're seeing doesn't represent the entire playing group. For the most part, they've been pretty good."

    With the preparations of 72 players so far impacted by quarantine, there have been suggestions the Australian Open be changed to a best-of-three sets format in the men's draw.

    But Tiley said he had no plans to make such a drastic change.

    "We're a grand slam at the end of the day and right now three out of five sets for the men and two out of three sets for the women is the position we plan on sticking to, starting February 8," he said.

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