Tennis boss reveals Australian Open travel plans

4 weeks ago 19
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Australian Open boss Craig Tiley has flagged the return of a near-normal summer of tennis in 2021-22, as vaccine rates continue to soar across the country.

This year's Australian Open was delayed until February as the pandemic caused chaos with the schedule, with a mid-tournament lockdown preventing crowds from attending on five days.

The status of international events in Australia remains uncertain, with Melbourne's Formula One race, scheduled for November, cancelled after organisers were unable to reach an agreement with health authorities to bring drivers and team staff into the country.

The lead-up to this year's Australian Open was overshadowed by 72 players being forced into hard quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 on their way to Melbourne.

Speaking at an event to launch Nine's summer of tennis, Tiley was hopeful the arrival of players into Australia would be different this time around.

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley. (Nine)

"There's a lot of time between now and when we get going, but at this point in time we're planning on having a two-week bubble, where the players will be able to move freely between the hotel and the courts," he said.

"Of course, previously we had quarantine, but now we're looking at more of a bubble scenario.

"They're protected, they're safe amongst themselves and safe from the community as well."

Crowd limits and lockdown meant this year's tournament was attended by just over 130,000 fans, a far cry from the grand slam record of 812,174 in 2020.

While a return to pre-pandemic levels might be optimistic at this stage, Tiley says the players can look forward to showcasing their skills in front of spectators once again.

"After those two weeks (in the bubble), they'll come out and be able to compete at the Australian Open in front of crowds," he said.

Ash Barty will be seeking to become the first local winner of the Australian Open since 1978. (Getty)

"We're working with the government and health authorities now on the amount of crowds and what the Australian Open will specifically look like.

"We've got some great plans, some great things to introduce."

Those plans will include the unveiling of a new show court as part of the redevelopment of the Melbourne Park precinct.

Tiley noted that Wimbledon champion Ash Barty will start as one of the favourites, as she looks to become the first local champion since 1978, while defending champion Novak Djokovic could be chasing an unprecedented fifth straight grand slam title.

"There's many opportunities we have to have a great story," he said.

"Obviously, keep everyone safe (is the priority), as far as vaccinations, we're hoping to hit the target of 80 per cent plus by the time we get to November, that will certainly help the situation for the event in January."

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