Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley says Australian Open officials are in discussions over multiple scenarios to ensure the tournament can still go ahead in 2021.
This year’s event was hampered by the devastating bushfires in Australia which led to poor visibility and air pollution levels.
Since then the world has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which led to over 270,000 deaths.
The tennis season is currently suspended with the hope of resuming in July but there are growing doubts over whether competition will restart.
World No 2 Rafael Nadal spoke out this week about the situation and told Spanish media he is looking ahead to 2021 rather than thinking of playing again this year.
“I would sign up right now just to [be] ready for 2021,” Nadal said.
“I’m more concerned with the Australian Open than with what happens later this year. I think 2020 has been practically lost. I’m hopeful of being able to start next year.
“Sadly, I’m not going to lie to you, the feeling is that we are losing a year of our lives.
“And at 33, 34 years old, that is more valuable than at 20, when you have more time ahead of you.”
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With reduced air travel and social distancing set to be the new norm, tournaments have major decisions to make to ensure the safety of all involved.
And in a statement, Tiley said all options were being explored by officials as they plan ahead for the season-opening Grand Slam tournament.
He said: “These unprecedented times have created an enormous amount of worldwide uncertainty on when and how future major sport and entertainment events take place. The situation is constantly changing which dictates a need for agility and a level of planning that explores a wide range of options.
“Ideally in January, we would be able to offer another world-class Australian Open experience for players and fans alike. Realistically, international travel may still be limited, strict social distancing regulations may be in place and mass gatherings may be prohibited.
“In all our contingency planning, we are taking into account the high dependency tennis has on international travel and the potential ramifications of players quarantining.
“We are exploring how to best include fans, if possible, while also preparing for a scenario where we won’t have any international fans or visitors, apart from the players, onsite. If mass gatherings are still prohibited or severely restricted next year, we are investigating how to best provide a broadcast-only event.
“These are just some of the many scenarios we must examine. Others relate to what may happen with the men’s and women’s tours and how any decisions affect the players’ availability, plus studying the impact on broadcasters, sponsors and fans.
“We have a series of decisions to make planning for various possibilities. The most important factor remains that we want to be able to provide assurances that it is safe for players to travel to Australia and that they will be safe and protected while here.
“Our world is forever changed and the starting point for all of our Australian Open decisions is always the health and safety of the community. We will continue to work very closely with government and our stakeholders – both domestically and internationally – to map out a way forward for next summer.”
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