Tighter protocols in store for players at Australian Open

In a document seen by Tennis Majors, the Australian Open has told players they can bring only two additional team members to Melbourne, and outlined a set of tightened protocols

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In an eight-page document, seen by Tennis Majors, the players and their reduced entourages have been told of the tightened protocols they will be subject to on arrival in Australia and during the Australian Open, as well as additional playing opportunities and increased prize money for first-round losers and players in qualifying.

Here are the main details of what players can expect:

  • A maximum of 1000 people (players and teams) will be allowed into Australia, which means players (not all of them) can be accompanied by a maximum of 2 team members
  • Players must arrive in Melbourne on Jan 15 or Jan 16
  • Players and one team member can train for up to five hours, but all team must stay in the hotel for the remaining 19 hours per day
  • Players must have six negative tests in all before being allowed to play (including one before arrival in Australia)
  • Players can have a second test if they test positive for Covid-19
  • If a player tests positive before the tournament (and is unable to play because of regulations) they can receive 50 percent of their prize money
  • Australian Open qualifying will be played outside Australia, details of which are to be confirmed.
  • The ATP Cup, two ATP 250 events and two WTA 500s will take place in Melbourne the week before the Australian Open
  • One WTA tournament will happen during the second week of the Australian Open
  • First-round losers in the singles events are set to receive AUD $100,000

Top players can bring only two team members
In the eight-page memo sent by Tennis Australia to players on Tuesday Australian Open organisers informed everyone concerned that the Victoria state government is capping the number of people (over the age of three) who can travel to Australia for the first Grand Slam of the year at a maximum of 1000.

The document confirms that the Australian Open will take place from February 8-21.

It also confirms, above all, that Victoria, which has not registered any community-transition of COVID-19 for more than 40 days, will not take the protocols lightly. For example, the arrival dates have been tightened to Jan 15 and 16 (the 17th is no longer mentioned) and the only players who can have up to two additional team members are those in the main draw of the singles events, as well as the “top 10 doubles” (it is not specified whether it is per player or per team).

It will still be possible to request a third or even fourth person, but these would have to be taken from the quota of players who have voluntarily given up their team members. But there is an incentive to do this; anyone choosing not to bring anyone with them will be given approximately AUD $7,000, equivalent to that team member’s economy charter flight ticket, accommodation and food allowance.

Serena Williams, Australian Open 2020

Five hours on site per day, the rest in hotel

The document confirms and clarifies the conditions of access to Melbourne Park, too. Once a player has tested negative for Covid-19 on day one of their stay, they and ONE team member will be allowed on site for a maximum of five hours per day, two of which can be spent on the court with one other player, and 90 minutes in the gym. The remaining 19 hours of the day must be spent in their hotel rooms. In the second week of their quarantine, players’ choice of practice partners will be expanded from one to three.

In total, each person on site will have to pass six negative PCR tests to be free to play in the year’s first Grand Slam event: one before boarding their flights, the other five in Melbourne. Tennis Australia pondered the crisis that broke out between the French Tennis Federation and players Fernando Verdasco and Damir Dzumhur before Roland-Garros. So, to avoid false negatives, a person who tests positive will be entitled to a second PCR test. And any players who are forced to withdraw, after the main draw is made and before their first-round match, will keep 50 percent of their prize money.

More events in Australia

Organisers have also worked hard to offer players more playing opportunities, in Australia. The ATP Cup will be held in the week of February 1, along with two ATP 250 and two WTA 500s. There will then be one WTA 250 event in the second week after the Australian Open (week beginning Feb 15).

Total prize money will be AUD $71 million – the same as last year – while first-round losers and players who lose in qualifying will receive a greater percentage of prize money than in recent years. Subject to final confirmation, first-round losers will receive AUD $100,000.

Tennis Australia has not yet made this arrangement public, pending the reactions of the players and final confirmation of all the above details is expected to be released in the coming days.

Once through the 14-day quarantine, players will be allowed to stay in private accommodation, if they choose, and move around Melbourne – and to and from the Melbourne Park site – freely.

Translated from French by Simon Cambers

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