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Australian tennis legend Todd Woodbridge says it will be unworkable for international stars to spend their 14-day period of quarantine confined entirely to hotel rooms and without access to practice facilities ahead of Australian tournaments this summer.
Tennis Australia is awaiting sign off from various state governments on quarantine requirements before the configuration of the summer calendar is finalised. Amid a range of scenarios, all events in Australia could take place in Melbourne to avoid the complexity and risks involved with players crossing state borders.
Chief executive Craig Tiley last week said D-Day was fast approaching to lock-in plans. While Australian Open officials anticipate crowds won't exceed 25 per cent of normal capacity, they are planning on opening ticket sales on November 26.
Todd Woodbridge.Credit:Simon Schluter
Officials began mapping out various options for January’s major when the pandemic hit last March. Central to Tennis Australia’s plans have been safe and secure “controlled bubbles” that allow players to undertake two weeks of quarantine while also allowing them to practice.
Grand slam doubles legend Woodbridge has reassured fans that while there are no doubts the Australian Open will go ahead, the issue of player movement in Australia – potentially from state to state – was the most vexed consideration.
Woodbridge said in was vital January's major maintained its positive reputation among players.
“There’s a big focus on giving them a quality training bubble,” Woodbridge told The First Serve podcast.
“They obviously can’t come down here and sit in a hotel for 14 days and come out and snap calves and hamstring and things like that.
“That’s the next part – where they can be in that training bubble and be the best prepared."
However, Woodbridge said players would welcome the chance to come to Australia.
“From the players’ perspective, they’re very confident about coming here. They see our [COVID] case numbers.
“TA are going to do everything in their power to make sure that that bubble and everything is as tight as can be – to keep everybody healthy.
“They’re talking with the best health and medical experts about the safety of the players, and our community as well.
Tiley last week confirmed officials had sought approval for tennis stars to play sanctioned events during quarantine – as has happened elsewhere this year. “Anything is a possibility, but we’re not banking on that," he said.
Instead, he said players being restricted to hotel rooms for a two-week block wasn’t manageable.
“The players cannot prepare in that environment,” he said.
“If that’s a restriction, and a permanent restriction, then I think that we’re significantly compromised and we have to come up with another plan, because at that point – it’s not something the players have been doing around the world.
"At that point I think you run all sorts of risks of injuries and I think a large percentage of the playing group wouldn’t show up.
“But that’s not been the position. We’re talking way beyond that in the quarantine environment. We’re talking about how we transport them and how we secure them.”
Tiley vowed that the quarantine requirements would be the safest and most secure in the world.
“The objectives will be to protect the community, so the players while they’re training will only go from their hotel room to the courts, and then back to the hotel room in a secure protected environment."
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