Confusion Over Plans To Relocate Major Australian Tennis Events To Melbourne
Tennis Australia has confirmed their intentions but it appears that they are yet to receive a sign off by the relevant authorities.
Less than a day after it was announced that all tennis events for the 2021 Australian tennis season would be moved to Melbourne, it has emerged that the plan is still to be finalised.
On Sunday The Herald Sun confirmed that Tennis Australia plans to move all their major events to the state of Victoria, which Melbourne is the capital of. The move follows recent speculation about the viability of players travelling around the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Local governments have confirmed that they are unable to guarantee that players will be free to travel outside of Victoria. Prompting a plan to relocate all the events to Melbourne.
“There is now no risk of the Australian Open going ahead without everyone (all players) in Victoria, and we didn’t have that guarantee previously,” Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper.
Under the plan tournaments set to be held at Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart, Adelaide and Canberra will be relocated to the city. They will all take place prior to the Australian Open. Both Hobart and Brisbane have confirmed the decision via statements.
Although it has emerged that there is still some degree of uncertainty with the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, saying that Tennis Australia’s plans are yet to be ‘settled.’ Speaking to watoday.com, Andrews said that his prime objective is to prevent another COVID-19 outbreak in the region. Players have already been told that they will need to isolate for 14 days upon arrival in the country.
“The notion that this is all a done deal, and there’s going to be all these tennis players turn up now, that’s not that is not settled, not settled at all,” he said.
“We’ve got to work through those things in a methodical way. It’s an important event. Absolutely. But avoiding a third wave is arguably even more important, but we’ll keep working through those issues. I think we can have the event go ahead, but it’s going to have to look different.”
It has also been confirmed that the local health authorities are still to approve the proposals. A somewhat worrying situation for the sport with players set to travel to the country next month and start their preparations.
“The public health team need to sign off on all of these arrangements. And they are just not settled, we want the event to happen just like we want the Boxing Day Test. But the thing about the cricket is, compared to the tennis, it’s a tiny group of people that we think we can quarantine. The challenges involved in the Australian Open are very, very different,” said Andrews.
Tennis Australia is yet to respond to Andrews’ comments. Although they have confirmed their desire to move everything to Melbourne to the AFP without outlining specific details.
It is understood that a player must test negative for COVID-19 twice before being allowed to enter the Australian ‘bubble.’
Wimbledon Likely To Scrap Ban On Russian Players, Says Two-Time Champion Murray
Andy Murray has told BBC Sport that he understands the ban implemented on Russian and Belarussian players competing at Wimbledon will be lifted this year.
The All England Club, as well as by British LTA, has been under pressure to conduct a u-turn on their policy following the backlash they received last year from both the ATP and WTA. In 2022 Britain became the only country on the Tour to ban players from their events as a result of the war in Ukraine which has claimed thousands of lives. Organisers said their decision to do so was based on advice from their government who voiced concern that Russia could use UK-based events as propaganda.
However, the governing bodies of men’s and women’s tennis condemned the move with both of them issuing fines to the LTA. It has been reported by The Telegraph newspaper that the WTA is willing to halve their $1M fine if athletes from the two nations are allowed to play this year. It has also been reported that officials are contemplating the possibility of requiring these players to sign some sort of contract to say they will not be making political gestures before being allowed to play. However, this has not been publicly confirmed.
Whilst there is yet to be any official statement, Murray appears confident that the ban will be lifted based on what he has heard. Murray, who donated more than £500,000 of his prize money from last season to charities supporting Ukrainian children affected by the war, has previously voiced his opposition to the 2022 ban.
“It’s a really difficult one and I do feel for the players who weren’t able to play last year – but I also understand the situation and why it’s really hard for Wimbledon to make a call on it as well,” Murray told BBC Sport.
“My understanding is that they are going to be allowed to play and I’m not going to be going nuts if that is the case.
“But if Wimbledon went down another route I would be understanding of that.”
Besides their financial penalty, Wimbledon lost their right to award ranking points last year for the first time in history. There have also been concerns that should the ban not be reversed, the rights for some events held in the UK such as Eastbourne could be removed and sold elsewhere.
Under current rules, players from Russia and Belarus are allowed to play on the Tour but only under a neutral status. They are currently suspended from all team competitions such as the Davis Cup.
Murray spoke about Wimbledon to reporters in Indian Wells ahead of his first round clash with Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina. So far this season he has won six out of nine matches played with his best run being to the final of the Qatar Open last month.
Andy Murray Targets Wimbledon Seeding
Andy Murray believes carefully planning his training sessions to avoid overload will help him achieve his goal of returning back inside the world’s top 32.
The three-time Grand Slam champion has climbed up the rankings this week by 18 places to 52nd in the world following his run to the final of the Qatar Open where he was denied the title by Daniil Medvedev. At the tournament, he defeated Lorenzo Sonego, Alexander Zverev and Australian Open quarter-finalist Jiri Lehecka. It was the first time the Brit has reached the final of a Tour event since June.
Murray was scheduled to return to action this week at the Dubai Tennis Championships but has since withdrawn from the event. Officially he has cited a hip issue as a reason he is not playing, however, it is understood that his decision is only a precautionary measure and is not linked to his previous problems. Murray has undergone two surgeries on his hip and now plays with a metal rod inserted into his joint.
“The matches I had last week were physically pretty demanding,” Murray told The Times.
“It was five matches in six days – the last time I did that was in Stuttgart (in June) but because of the surface (grass), the matches were physically really not that challenging.
“I had an issue then with my abdominal muscle and on Friday evening in Doha I was feeling my abs a little bit after the semi-final.
“Because of the experience I had last year, it was clearly a load-related thing because of the amount of tennis I played in a short period, so I was a bit worried about that.”
The former world No.1 says he needs to be more careful about putting his body under too much pressure due to his age and previous injury problems. Instead, Murray is taking a more structured approach to how he trains.
Using data tracking to analyze his workout plans and focusing on specific areas, the hope is that he can tune up his game without suffering any setbacks. He has already made progress this season by winning six out of nine matches played. Besides Doha, he also reached the third round of the Australian Open before losing to Roberto Bautista Agut.
As for goals for the future, Murray hopes to climb further up the world rankings and be seeded for a Grand Slam once again, especially Wimbledon where he feels he has ‘a better opportunity for a deep run.’ He is a two-time champion at SW19 and has won a total of 60 main draw matches at the event.
“I do believe that this is allowing me to be in much better shape,” Murray explained about his approach to training. “I know exactly when I go on the court, how much time I’m going to spend on it and which drills and exercises I do are going to get me to certain heart-rate zones.
“Rather than just blasting yourself twice, once on the court and once in the gym, sometimes I only need to do it on the court if I’m getting the right stimulus from the tennis session.
“My feeling on Wimbledon is that less players play well on grass. More of the guys are comfortable on the hard courts and that probably increases my chances.
“I’m not saying I would expect to win the French Open (on clay) if I played, but with Wimbledon, there is certainly a better opportunity to have a deep run.
“Yes, I have some niggles and my body doesn’t feel amazing, but it’s coped really well with the first few tournaments of the year that have been really demanding.
“My belief is that my body would be fine to play seven five-set matches if needs be. Granted, if they are six-hour ones, probably not, but regular five-set matches, I’d be able to cope with that.”
To guarantee a seeding for a Grand Slam a player must be ranked inside the world’s top 32 before the main draw cut-off occurs. The last time Murray was in this position was back in April 2018.
Murray is set to return to action next month at Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami.
Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open Win Was ESPN’S Least-Watched Men’s Final In Years
Despite the historic victory at Melbourne Park, the world No.1’s clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas failed to attract a big audience in America.
Novak Djokovic’s triumph at the Australian Open might have rewritten the history books but this year’s men’s final wasn’t a hit for ESPN compared to recent editions.
The world No.1 surged to a straight sets win over Stefanos Tsitsipas to become the first man in history to have won the Australian Open for a 10th time. Djokovic has also drawn level with Rafael Nadal for the most major titles won by a male player at 22 each. The win came a year after he was deported from the country after losing a legal battle concerning the legitimacy of his Visa. Djokovic was initially banned from re-entering Australia for three years but that penalty was waived last November.
Despite the recent drama involving the tennis star, ESPN has confirmed that this year’s title match attracted just 430,000 viewers which is the broadcaster’s worst audience for an Australian Open men’s final match in at least a decade. The match took place in the early hours of the morning in America (3:30-7:30am ET) which could be attributed to the figures. However, Rafael Nadal’s five-set triumph over Daniil Medvedev in 2021 attracted 689,000 viewers. This is a year-on-year drop of 36%.
It was a similar situation for the women’s final which saw Aryna Sabalenka oust Elena Rybakin in three sets to win her first major title. 379,000 viewers watched that match which is a 21% drop compared to 2022 which featured America’s Danielle Collins losing in straight sets to Ash Barty.
On Australian TV there were also disappointing figures with the Nine commercial network reporting a 40% decline during the finals weekend. The men’s final was down 300,000 (1.3M vs 1.6M) and the women’s was down a huge 2.83M (1.43M vs 4.26M). Although the 2022 women’s title match triggered huge interest in Australia due to the success of home player Barty. Throughout the entire tournament, Nine attracted a total audience of 10.064M compared to 12.5M in 2022.
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. According to TV Blackbox, this year’s men’s final was actually first in the overnight metro ratings and interestingly outperformed Cricket’s Big Bash League – the knockout by almost 1M which was shown at the same time on network Seven. The metro ratings are based on TV viewership in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
Both ESPN and Network Nine have recently signed deals to show the Australian Open. According to the Sports Business Journal, ESPN has signed a nine-year deal with Tennis Australia starting this year. Meanwhile, sen.com.au reports Nine will be the home broadcaster until at least 2030 in a deal worth in the region of AUS$500M.
This year’s Australian Open set a new attendance record of 839,192 fans through the gates.
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