Tennis Australia (TA) will employ a ‘hub’ model by shifting all Australian Open lead-up events to the state of Victoria to ensure the strongest-possible field for the first major of 2021.
TA will transfer at least five events usually held in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart to Melbourne and its surrounds in a blockbuster summer of action.
It’s a similar build-up to the 2020 US Open, which transferred the Cincinnati Masters to Flushing Meadows as a warm-up, but on a more extreme scale.
The US Open field in September was considerably diminished because of COVID-19 pandemic, which Australian Open organisers are desperate to avoid.
The unprecedented measure will see up to 550 players and their entourages flying into Melbourne from mid-December, where they will be allowed to play and train but be restricted to hotels or the tennis court until they have completed two weeks of quarantine.
They are then free to travel around the state for competition, with some of the tournaments set to be held at regional venues such as Bendigo and Traralgon, subject to approval.
Some events could be played after the Open in a re-worked calender.
“There is now no risk of the Australian Open going ahead without everyone in Victoria and we didn’t have that guarantee previously,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told the Herald Sun.
It remains unclear how many fans will attend the Open, which is scheduled from January 18-31.
Tiley wants at least 25 per cent crowd capacity, which has been confirmed for cricket’s Boxing Day Test against at the MCG.
Tiley compared confining the summer of tennis to Victoria to the AFL restricting much of its season to Queensland.
“But we have a very different construct to the AFL and cricket because we are bringing in a lot of international people and their entourage so we’ve got to ensure they stay on a very rigid, tough lockdown,” he said.