2021 Australian Open In Doubt Due To COVID-19 - UBITENNIS
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2021 Australian Open In Doubt Due To COVID-19

Potentially cancelling the Melbourne major is one of the options being considered by Tennis Australia.

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The head of Tennis Australia has admitted that there is a chance that the Australian Open could not be played for the first time in over 30 years.

 

Craig Tiley has told the Australian Associated Press (AAOP) that numerous options are being looked at regarding the grand slam, which is scheduled to take place in January. All tennis tournaments have come to a standstill since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic with a resumption date still up in the air. Wimbledon has already been cancelled for the first time since 1945. Meanwhile, there are ongoing doubts about the likelihood of both the US Open and French Open events going ahead as planned.

Should the Melbourne major take place next year, there is expected to be some significant changes. Including the possibility of having no foreign visitors to the event. A total of 812,174 fans attended the event over 14 days this season, according to official figures.

“The worst – case scenario is no AO (Australian Open),” Tiley said.
“Our best-case scenario at this point is having an AO with players that we can get in here with quarantining techniques and Australian-only fans.”

Both the ATP and WTA have previously said they are hopeful of resuming the sport before the year ends. However, some have expressed doubts over the chances of that occurring. World No.2 Rafael Nadal recently told Spanish newspaper El Pais that he believes it is likely that the current season is over.

Amid the uncertainty, Tiley is implementing a contingency plan that covers a series of options for the grand slam. Including potentially holding the tournament without fans or even moving it to another date in the calendar.

“There’s four scenarios and we’ve modelled everything,” he said.
“We’ve modelled the times we have to make decisions, dates we have to make decisions, who it impacts, how it’s going to impact them.
“We’ve done that for 670 staff. We’ve done that for all of our partners – our media partners, our sponsors and for all the governments and places we rent facilities (from).
“And now we’re working on the international playing group and getting them to understand what each of those scenarios are and what it means for them and how we can action it.”

Australia has had fewer cases of the coronavirus than other parts of the world, according to figures provided by Reuters on May 6th. There have been less than 7000 cases with under 1000 of those still being treated for the virus. Although 96 people have died.

The last time the Australian Open didn’t take place was in 1986 due to a change in it’s hosting date from December to January. Founded in 1905, it is the youngest out of the four grand slam tournaments.

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‘Global Announcement’ Regarding Revised 2020 Calendar In The Works, Says French Open Chief

Guy Forget has issued an update regarding the current status of the clay-court major.

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The governing bodies of tennis are hoping to announce their plans for the remainder of the 2020 season in unison, according to the tournament director of the French Open.

 

Guy Forget has told French radio station Europe 1 that he is working with the ITF, ATP and WTA on a ‘global announcement’ regarding what the rest of the tennis season would look like when it resumes. All professional events have been either cancelled or suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are hopes that the sport could resume in August, however, there is still uncertainty around the US Open with a final decision set to be made in June.

The uncertainty surrounding Flushing Meadows is also problematic for the French Open, which is set to take just two weeks after the event concludes. Forget has stated that he is working with the USTA to ensure that the two major events do not collide. The French Open had originally planned to start on May 24th before being delayed due to the pandemic.

“The official announcement has not been made yet. It (the French Open) will probably be between the end of September and the beginning of October,” Forget told Europe 1.
“We’ve been working closely with the ATP, the WTA and the ITF to make a global announcement on what the circuit will be like until the end of the year.
“There are so many question marks. The city of New York is more affected by the coronavirus than France. They also have a lot of organisation problems, they will make an announcement mid-June to say how it’s going to be like for the US Open.”

Whilst the USTA is contemplating taking place behind closed doors, Forget is confident that his event will be able to welcome fans in some capacity. At present, France has banned all events that involve 5000 or more people. More than 500,000 tickets were sold for the tournament last year.

“We’ll see how the situation is in a couple of months. We will adapt to what the government will say. We have to be ambitious and optimistic,” he said.

The French Open is scheduled to be held from September 20th until October 4th. Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty are the defending champions in the men’s and women’s draws.

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Chances Of Fan-Less US Open Rising Amid Warning From Former Champion Marin Cilic

The former world No.3 believes such a move would devalue the tournament, but it is the best option the USTA has?

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The last player outside of the Big Four to win the US Open title believes the motion to play the event behind closed doors will feel like playing practice matches instead of a grand slam.

 

2014 champion Marin Cilic has voiced his concerns as the United States Tennis Association (USTA) continues to ponder what to do with the major event. All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic with officials hoping to restart the Tour in August. However, there are concerns about the chances of the US Open taking place as originally planned due to New York being one of the most affected states in America by Coronavirus. More than 20,000 people have died in New York from the virus.

One option under consideration is hosting the event without any fans due to fears that the venue could become a COVID-19 hotspot with many people gathering in one place. Last year a record 737,872 fans visited the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center over two weeks. Such a move would be a huge financial loss for the organisers, but the event would still be able to go ahead. However, Cilic isn’t convinced that it would be the right move.

“I just feel that it’s going to more or less feel like practice matches,” he said during an interview with Reuters.
“It’s always going to be … in the years to come, ‘oh, you know that guy won a U.S. Open in 2020 without fans’. I don’t think it’s going to have that weight…
“It wouldn’t be the best scenario.”

Whilst it may not be the best scenario in the eyes of Cilic, it does appear that the USTA will be heading in that direction. Earlier this week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo posted a message on Twitter in which he said he is willing to partner with sports teams who will play events without fans. A possible lifeline for the US Open.

“New York State is ready and willing to partner with major sports teams that are interested in playing games safely, without fans. If our professional sports teams can make it work (and be safe) on their end, we’re supportive,” he wrote.

Originally the CEO of the USTA, Mike Dose, said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that the tournament would be played behind closed doors. However, that view has since significantly changed with more now leaning in favour of that option.

Lew Sherr is the Chief Revenue Officer of the USTA. Speaking to The Sports Business Journal, he said he has been surprised by the reception he has received from sponsors over the idea of a no-fan US Open with many viewing it as an historic event.

“Two months ago, it just didn’t feel like you could stage the celebration or the spectacle that is the U.S. Open in a no-fan scenario and have it be what we think of as the U.S. Open,” Sherr said.
“As we’ve gone forward, I’ve come around to recognizing what an achievement it would be to play, and how much our fans are missing the game and would be excited to see the competition, and that you need to think about it differently. It’s a different event. It would be broadcast differently, it would be consumed differently, it’s not just playing the U.S. Open as you know it, with empty seats.”

A final decision on the US Open will be made next month.

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New Date, No Fans Or No Tournament At All? Australian Open Weighing Up Options For 2021

All options are on the table for the Melbourne major as uncertainty surrounding the resumption date of the tour continues.

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The Australian Open may still be more than seven months away but discussions are already underway about how to stage the event in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended due to the virus, which has infected more than two million worldwide and killed thousands. The ATP, WTA and ITF are currently in discussions about when they will be able to resume the Tours with one source suggestion that there will be no play until at least August. The month where the US Open is set to get underway. Although there are doubts about that happening given that New York is the epicenter of the outbreak in America.

Craig Tiley, who is the tournament director of the Australian Open, has confirmed that they are looking at various ways to stage their event next year. Including the possibility of holding it behind closed doors. An approach that has been ruled out by the USTA, which runs the US Open. Speaking to The Age newspaper, Tiley outlined four potential scenarios. Including using the Australian Open as the event to kickstart the Tour should no more play resume in 2020.

“We’d love that,” Tiley said. “It’s one of our scenarios.
“Another scenario is to return without a crowd – like the AFL are talking now, and the NRL.
“Another scenario is to [play] at another time of the year potentially and another scenario is the worst-case one – that there’s no Australian Open until 2022.
“We’ve got to prepare for all of them. We’ve got to build a financial model for all of them.
“The good news is that we had an event this year so we had some cash, but that dries up quickly if we have no revenue.”

It remains to be seen what option may come about, but the general consensus is that it will be weeks before the players are competing on the tour again. World No.2 Rafael Nadal said on Monday that he was ‘very pessimistic’ that tennis would return to normal anytime soon. Meanwhile, Andy Murray said he would be ‘surprised’ if the tour returned mid-September. The time when both the US Open and French Open tournaments are set to take place.

“I would imagine tennis would be one of the last sports to get back to normality because you’ve obviously got players and coaches and teams coming from all over the world into one area,” Murray told CNN.
“I would be surprised if they were back playing sport by September-time,” he added.

Should the Australian Open get cancelled, they do have the luxury of a pandemic insurance. A critical factor when it came to Wimbledon’s decision to cancel their event for the first time since 1945. However, Tiley has confirmed that the pandemic cover expires this summer and negotiations are underway.

“We have two kinds of insurance – we have a reserve fund and then we purchased insurance on top of that. Because a reserved fund can’t cover everything,” he explained.
“But now we’re in discussions with the same insurer on what the future looks like.
“And it’s interesting. Because insurers need to make a decision – will they insure against a pandemic?
“Probably is now a good time to do it [for insurers] because the world’s going to be ready for another one if there ever was one.
“After this pandemic is over, the likelihood of that happening – the way the world’s going to have to mobilise and stop it again – would be very unlikely.
“We have been covered and we have to be covered in a different way from ’21 onwards.”

The last time the Australian Open didn’t take place was in 1986 due to a change in it’s hosting date from December to January. Founded in 1905, it is the youngest out of the four grand slam tournaments.

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