Back

Australian Open Quarantine Debate: Players Banking On Organiser Demands

T
he lead up to the 2021 Australian Open has been filled with concerns and question marks, from a one-month postponement, to positive COVID-19 testing on three chartered international flights, to a hefty Victorian Government loan and last-minute hotel changes.

The latest concern comes as a large number of players have been forced into strict 14-day COVID-19 quarantines, and Victorian Police have already been forced to hand out $20,000 fines to players for attempting to breach the protocols.

Sparking the enforced 14-day quarantine was a fourth case of positive COVID-19 testing from passengers on three chartered flights from both the US and Abu Dhabi.

The new quarantine rules for 62 people means they will be unable to train for 14 days, after the original rules suggested players would be allowed five hours of isolated training during this time.

This has sparked outrage from a number of participants who are stuck in mandatory quarantine, with some going as far to say if they knew the rules would be this harsh for close contact, they may not have come to Australia for the competition, including women’s player, Yulia Putinseva, who took to Twitter to show her frustrations.

“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,” Putinseva said on Twitter.

“I would think twice before coming here.

“Because they said, you have to only if you or one of your team members is positive.

“Not a random person on the plane,” she said.

The complaints from athletes have been met by public backlash, with tennis great and now commentator, Rennae Stubbs, saying the athletes in quarantine have no right to be complaining due to the perks and prize money available, even for being eliminated in the first round.

“I have opinions on these tennis players complaining about the quarantine situation here in OZ and for the Australian Open and they’re not going to want to hear it from me,” Stubbs said.
“Its got something to do with a minimum of $100,000, free flights, food and lots more, want to talk at me kids?” she said.
These comments were met with further explanations from athletes, with Sorana Cirstea saying she understands and accepts the need for strict quarantine, but will not have enough time to prepare for the tournament, which starts on February 8, just one week after the players in question will be allowed out of quarantine.
People complaining we are entitled,” Cirstea said on Twitter.
“I have no issues to stay 14 days in the room watching Netflix.
“Believe me this is 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.
“I would need at least 3 weeks after in order to be in decent form again and compete at a high level,” she said.
Cirstea also went as fair to point out comments made by Australian Open tournament director and Tennis Australia CEO, Craig Tiley, saying players can not be asked to compete after two weeks in enforced quarantine.
“If a player has to quarantine and be stuck in a hotel for two weeks just before their season, that won’t happen,” Tiley told AAP in October.
“You can’t ask players to quarantine for two weeks and then step out and be ready to play a grand slam,” he said.
The latest from Tennis Australia has confirmed no changes will be made to the schedule, with players not forced into the strict quarantine permitted to train up to five hours per day on Monday.
COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria commissioner, Emma Cassar, said some players and their teams are trying to breach quarantine rules and are committing dangerous acts in quarantine.
“We take all breaches really seriously,” Cassar said.
“For the players, that is a fine of up to $20,000, a warning from the police, but what we have also considered today is for those who are persistently breaching or not willing to remain in their rooms, our other option would be to transfer people to the complex care hotel where there is a member of the Victoria Police outside the door.
“Some of these challenging behaviours include one player who opened his door to try and have a conversation with his training mate down the hallway.
“It is very low level, but they are dangerous acts that we cannot tolerate,” she said.
These Australian Open concerns are the latest in a string of setbacks the organisers have faced in trying to hold the event as the first grand slam of 2021, with Tennis Australia having to take out a loan in estimate of $140 million from the Victorian Government.
Tiley, told The Australian Financial Review Tennis Australia would exhaust savings, which it holds over $80 million, but was taking a concessionary loan from the government, supplemented by the private sector, to help cover a $60 million shortfall in funds.
The Victorian Government confirmed the exact figure of the loan was confidential, but said the Australian Open contributes $387.7 million to visitor economy and Tennis Australia had extended Melbourne as the event’s home until 2039.
Despite the claims, a 2019 report from the Australian Financial Review said the Australian Open injected $293.2 million into the Victorian economy in 2018, and it has contributed $2.3 billion over the last decade.
A large portion of this comes from attendance, as well as international attendees, with 49% of the 743,667 people who attended the event in 2018 being from outside of Melbourne and 12% international.
The report suggested the Victorian Government had recently committed a further $271.55 million for upgrades to Melbourne Park’s redevelopment in 2019, which included Rod Laver Arena, adding to the $338 million contribution for the second stage.
The Australian Open also typically attracts 700 journalists from around the world in the media centre.
It hasn’t been revealed how much extra investment the Victorian Government has committed for the running of the 2021 Australian Open, including the loan given to Tennis Australia, and it can safely be determined the event will not provide as significant a boost to Victorian economy in recent years.
Reduced attendance, high-profile players sitting out and the lack of international visitors are marked as key factors reducing the value of the 2021 tournament, not to mention the discount Tennis Australia was forced to provide its broadcast partners, including a 10% discount for Channel Nine’s $60 million payment.