Welcome to our live blog in the lead-up to the 2021 Australian Open in which we will be looking at the latest update on who is playing, who is not, and how are things going as far as the quarantine and pre-tournament results are concerned.
Extra WTA Tournament Added for Quarantined Players
8.30 pm BST, Sunday, January 24, 2021
The WTA have added an extra tennis tournament in the lead-up to the Australian Open. This competition will be played from February 3-7 and organised specially for players who have been quarantined for 14 days after landing in Australia.
WTA CEO Steve Simon announced:
“These changes to the lead-in events have been made to give the 72 players a little bit of extra time to help them prepare. We also will prioritize them for things like practice sessions, gym and ice baths.”
Yastremska Disallowed from Playing Australian Open
8.30 am BST, Sunday, January 24, 2021
Dayana Yastremska might not be allowed to play in the Australian Open after the ITF rejected her appeal to lift the provisional ban on her after having tested positive for mesterolone.
Despite result, Yastremska had travelled to Australia to feature in the year’s opening Grand Slam, and could now appeal the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The ITF released a statement around this decision here.
Spain Tennis Apologises to Australian Counterparts
1 pm BST, Saturday, January 23, 2021
The Spanish tennis federation has apologised to Tennis Australia for complaining about the alleged treatment meted out to the quarantined players.
Around 72 players have been quarantined for a 14-day period even as the rest of them are allowed five hours of daily training which had led to rants from the players themselves and Spain’s tennis federation was one of those who had led the complaints as well.
They had contended that two of the Spanish players, Mario Vilella and Carlos Alcaraz, hadn’t been informed about the 14-day quarantine if they were to be on the same flight as someone else found positive.
The federation had said:
“It is evident that these two players will not be able to compete on equal terms with the rest of the players. And it is no longer only a strictly competitive problem of this first Grand Slam. The point is that his season could be seriously damaged by a 14-day lockdown.”
However, following Paula Badosa’s testing positive for the virus, the Spaniard federation has back-tracked on their complains.
“First of all, we apologise to Tennis Australia if our statement has at any time been interpreted as a criticism of their working methods, nothing is further from our intention.”
The Spanish federation also thanked Tennis Australia for their efforts in organising the year’s first Grand Slam in these difficult and different times.
Murray Ruled out of Australian Open
2.30 am BST, Saturday, January 23, 2021
Britain’s Andy Murry, who tested positive for the coronavirus, earlier this month, has been ruled out of the Australian Open.
Murray was to fly to Australia in one of the chartered flights arranged by Tennis Australia but was revealed to be positive to the illness. He had expressed hope he would be able to make a later trip to the country for the season’s first Grand Slam after recovering from the virus but no solution could be found between his team and the organisers.
The Briton said:
“We’ve been in constant dialogue with Tennis Australia to try and find a solution which would allow some form of workable quarantine, but we couldn’t make it work.”
This comes on the back of a 2020 season when Murray struggled to get going as he looked to recover from another hip-related illness. As a result, ranked 123rd in the world, Murray had received a wild-card to play in the Australian Open.
Badosa Tests Positive
2.30 pm BST, Friday, January 22, 2021
Spanish player Paul Badosa has released a statement stating she has tested positive for coronavirus. In a social media post, Badosa revealed she had been feeling under the weather for a few days, suffering a few symptoms and following doctor’s advice.
Badosa added she had been taken to a “health hotel” to be isolated from the rest of the players.
The Spaniard was one of the players on one of three flights which had seen 72 players getting confined to their rooms for 14 days following the return of a few positive tests from some of the people on the flight.
Please, don’t get me wrong. Health will always comes first & I feel grateful for being in Australia. Quarantine & preventive measures are pivotal right now. I talked about rules that changed overnight but I understand the sad situation we are living. Sorry guys. Stay safe. I❤️🇦🇺
— Paula Badosa (@paulabadosa) January 21, 2021
Kyrgios Slams Djokovic
4.30 am BST, Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios has slammed world number one Novak Djokovic for his demands of Tennis Australia. Read more about this in our report here.
Two Players Test Positive
6.30 am BST, Tuesday, January 19, 2021
While there have been two cases of players testing positive for coronavirus over the last 24 hours, Australian Open boss Craig Tiley has confirmed there will be no change in the schedule for this year’s opening major.
The health department of the state of Victoria said in a statement:
“The new positive cases linked to the Australian Open involve two players and one non-playing participant.”
In what was good news, Tiley said the players who tested positive were “not contagious” and continued to isolate in their current accommodation.
They form a part of a 72-person contingent who have had to quarantine for a period of 14 days because they have been deemed to be close contacts and hence won’t be allowed to practice or train like the rest of the players.
Tiley also said the tournament will go on as planned from February 8 with the men’s singles matches still to be played as a best-of-five format.
Djokovic Quarantine Requests Rejected
12.30 pm BST, Monday, January 18, 2021
World number one Novak Djokovic had tried to get some special exemptions for 72 players who have been quarantined because of people testing positive in their respective flights but the Victorian government has rejected those demands.
According to a letter leaked online, Djokovic had allegedly sent a letter to Australian Open CEO Craig Tiley which included six requests for these 72 tennis players. These included a request to reduce the number of days of isolation, an allowance for the players to make use of their trainers or coaches, players to be moved to private houses that included tennis court to allow for training.
However, Emma Cassar, who is a Commissioner for COVID-19 Quarantine in Victoria has rejected these demands. She said:
“The program is set up to keep people safe. We will not be modifying the program or watering it down under any circumstances.”
The front page of Tuesday’s The West Australian. pic.twitter.com/h3uFCWij2r
— The West Australian (@westaustralian) January 18, 2021
Meanwhile French tennis player Alize Cornet has apologised for her online rant against the quarantine measures that was imposed on these players.
She tweeted her comments had been “tactless” and the response to those from people had made her realise she shouldn’t have complained about the issue. Cornet added:
“But sometimes we make mistakes and the last thing I wanted to do was to hurt your feelings. Don’t be mad at me Aussie people, you’ve always been one of my favourite. I promise I’ll stay quiet for a while.”
25 More Players Join Hard Quarantine
2.30 pm BST, Sunday, January 17, 2021
Another positive test has been recorded on a third flight that landed in Melbourne resulting in the hard quarantine of 25 more players, taking the list of such players to 72. These players won’t be allowed to train and will need to undergo a 14-day quarantine, holed up in their hotel rooms.
According to lucky loser Alexandre Muller, an email was sent by the Australian Open organisers which explained a non-playing person on flight QR7485 from Doha had tested positive for the coronavirus. This was the fourth case of a positive test result among those who have flown into the country for the Australian Open in chartered flights.
Allez hop ! A LA NICHE !!!!! pic.twitter.com/SkGdOfCGGH
— Alexandre Müller (@Alex2Mumu) January 17, 2021
Australian Open to Go On But Players Upset
4.30 am BST, Sunday, January 17, 2021
Despite 47 players being forced to quarantine because of three positive cases of coronavirus on their flights, Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley has announced the tournament will go on as scheduled from February 8.
Speaking to Weekend Today, Tiley said:
“We are planning on February 8. We have two weeks of some great tennis and our intention is to absolutely continue with those dates.”
Tiley also confirmed those players, who were originally allowed to get out for five hours for training and practice, will now be confined to their hotels for 14 days. He said these 47 players won’t have the same opportunity as the rest of them who would be able to get out and practice.
This decision has already led to a lot of concern among players, who have bemoaned the lack of communication about such a situation.
Sorona Cirstea, world number 71, she would need around three weeks to get back into proper match form after a two-week break and like a few other players admitted she didn’t know everyone would be considered a close contact if even one person tested positive.
“I have no issues to stay 14 days in the room watching Netflix. Believe me this a dream come true, holiday even. What we cant do is COMPETE after we have stayed 14 days on a couch. This is the issue, not the quarantine rule.”
Belinda Bencic had a similar issue.
We are not complaining to be in Quarantine. We are complaining because of unequal practice/playing conditions before quite important tournaments.
— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) January 16, 2021
Even youngster Marta Kostyuk had her problems with different rules for different players because a few had tested positive on the flight.
— Tennis_BTU_ENG (@Tennis_BTU_ENG) January 16, 2021
Australian Open 2021 in Quandary
5.30 am BST, Saturday, January 16, 2021
Things aren’t looking too good for the 2021 Australian Open organisers after 47 of the players who landed in Melbourne have been put in a hard quarantine. This means they wouldn’t be allowed to leave their hotel rooms for 14 days.
What that means is they wouldn’t be allowed to practice for 14 days either.
This followed the announcement that two of those on the chartered flights which brought these 47 players over for the Australian Open had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Earlier, Tennis Australia had permitted five hours of training and practice to all the players every day in the build-up to the start of the tennis calendar in Australia.
Two people who have tested positive on one of the flights which came from Los Angeles are not players but include one of the crew members and a coach. This flight carried 24 players. Another person was reported to be positive in another flight carrying 23 players with one of the people identified as Bianca Andreescu’s coach Sylvain Bruneau.
Bruneau apologised for the situation everyone finds themselves in.
“I am extremely saddened and sorry for the consequences now on everyone’s shoulders sharing my flight.”
The likes of Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Kei Nishikori, Bianca Andreescu, Angelique Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova are all said to be a part of these two flights.
What i don’t understand is that, why no one ever told us, if one person on board is positive the whole plane need to be isolated🤦🏼♀️ I would think twice before coming here
— Yulia Putintseva (@PutintsevaYulia) January 16, 2021
Sandgren Boarding Leads to Controversy
Thursday, January 14, 2021
USA’s Tennys Sandgren created a flutter when he tweeted he had been allowed to fly to Melbourne for the Australian Open despite testing positive for the coronavirus.
Sandgren returned a second positive test since since November 2020 but he boarded the chartered flight because of a rule that allowed Victorian health authorities to take a call on supposedly non-infectious people despite shedding the virus.
Wow I’m on the plane
Maybe I just held my breath too long..
Craig Tiley is a wizard
— Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren) January 14, 2021
This followed the Australian Open organisers arranging for chartered flights which arrived in private hangars and led the players directly to their hotel rooms.