Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has confirmed the year’s first Grand Slam will go ahead from Feb. 8 despite anger from players forced into hard quarantine in Melbourne due to positive COVID-19 cases on their charter planes.
Seventy-two players and their entourages have to isolate for two weeks in their hotel rooms in Melbourne and are no longer able to leave them to train after infections were reported on three flights carrying them to Melbourne.
A positive case was reported late on Sunday from the third flight which landed a day earlier and had ferried 58 passengers from Doha, where the Grand Slam’s qualifiers were held.
Twenty-five players were on board but the passenger, who tested negative before the flight, is not a player.
“The 25 players on the flight will not be able to leave their hotel room for 14 days and until they are medically cleared. They will not be eligible for practise,” the Australian Open said in a statement.
Some of the affected players complained about their detention.
Romanian Sorana Cirstea, the women’s world number 71, said on social media: “If they would have told us this rule before, I would not play in Australia. I would have stayed home.”
Swiss player Belinda Bencic said she and the other 46 players were at a disadvantage.
“We are not complaining (about being) in quarantine. We are complaining because of unequal practice/playing conditions before quite important tournaments,” she said.
The 2021 Australian Open is scheduled to take place at Melbourne Park, from 8–21 February.
It will be the 109th edition of the Australian Open, the 53rd in the Open Era, and the first Grand Slam of the year. It was originally scheduled for 18–31 January 2021, but was postponed by three weeks to February due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin are the defending champions in Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles, respectively.