The Australian Open could be pushed back as far as April as tournament organisers struggle in a battle with strict COVID restrictions.
The grand slam, which is slated to start on January 18, remains in doubt as international tennis players and their entourages still have no answers on what access into Melbourne looks like.
SEN’s tennis guru Brett Phillips said there simply was not enough time for the stars to arrive in early January before taking the court.
“I cant see how we’re going to start on January 18,” Phillips said.
“We’re talking somewhere between 1500 and 200 people, players, entourages, umpires… the many people who are part of a grand slam.
“If they can’t come (into Melbourne) until January, we can’t start on January 18.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today said the “exact timing” of the grand slam was “not settled yet”, indicating a move could be on the cards.
“I am very confident we will have an Aussie Open in the early part of next year,” he said.
Phillips said moving the grand slam entirely could be the only option for Tennis Australia.
“One scenario that was on the table quite some time ago, was the possibility of the Australian Open being in maybe late March, early April,” he revealed.
“What I’m hearing is Tennis Australia are going to be meeting with the Department of Health.
“Tennis Australia want to protect the Australian Open. They don’t have that pandemic insurance for 2021.”
Cooler conditions and more practice leading into the grand slam remain the positives for players should the event be moved.
But a potential clash with the AFL, slated to start on March 18, is a big downside for the alternative date, while organisers still want to host the event in school holidays and remain a family-friendly event.
The Indian Wells and Miami tournaments, which did not go ahead in 2020 due to COVID, are also held during that period and organisers would be mindful of missing out for a second-straight year.
Phillips said Tennis Australia officials were almost at “D-Day” after struggling for answers during Melbourne’s tough COVID-enforced lockdown.
But as Victoria’s restrictions continue to ease amid improving virus results, there’s still too many questions unanswered for the tournament to go ahead, Phillips warned.
“If players aren’t allowed to get here until January 1, the question is are there enough flights? That’s going to take you through to mid-January (to get everyone in Australia),” he said.
“Are the players going to be allowed to practice? Or are they just going to be quarantined in their hotel for two weeks?
“They’ll need a lead in event. There’s no room for a lead in event (as it stands).
“The whole calendar could just take a massive shake up.”