Organisers of the Australian Open have revealed specialised safety protocols to ensure the season’s opening Grand Slam takes place in January next year with minimal disturbances. Australian Open director, Craig Tiley said that five bio-secure bubbles will be created six weeks before the 2021 edition to help players avoid regular quarantine measures when they enter the country.
He further added that organisers are positive about holding the event in its regular January slot with spectators in the stadium. They also hope to award them players full prize money.
“We’re going to open our bio bubble from the first of December and players can come at any time,” Tiley said. “When the players arrive, our expectation is they’re not going to be in a hotel for 14 days like the current requirements are. We’ll have an exemption within this biosecure bubble.” The biosecure bubbles will be in the cities of Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne under the guidance of a ‘global expert’.
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"We've said every year that we're the 'happy slam'. But now we're saying we're the 'very safe and happy slam,” Tiley added.
Apart from player safety and creating bio secure zones, Tiley is also hopeful of welcoming around 400,000 spectators at Melbourne Park for the 2021 tournament. Despite a recent outbreak of cases in Melbourne, Australian Open organisers hope to organise the event strategically for spectators, enforcing effective social distancing and make wearing masks mandatory.
"We've established a strategy and an operational plan for all our fans and how they will be positioned around the site,” Tiley said.
Tennis Australia’s (TA) primary source of revenue comes from the Australian Open, a tournament which has been taking place since 1972.The last edition, according to Tiley’s comments, had a direct impact of A$387 million ($277 million) on Melbourne.
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TA experts are expecting turnover and revenue to witness a decline by a double-digit percentage for the next edition. However, they have decided not to reduce the A$71 million ($50 million) prize money.
"I'm optimistic and positive that we'll have an event and it'll be in Melbourne," said Tiley. "It will have some crowds and it'll be the beginning of kind of getting back to the way we were."
In case they are forced to reschedule like French Open organisers, Tiley said a winter tournament was extremely unlikely, with March-April or September-October possible windows for play.
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