Australian Open plans for ‘bio-bubbles’ and crowds

The Men's Singles Final match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Australian Open (by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley says he is optimistic and positive about hosting next year’s grand slam tennis tournament in Melbourne.

The host city of the Australian Open has been fighting a recent surge in Covid-19 cases with residents there under curfew until September 13.

Against that backdrop, Tiley and his team have been drawing up plans to guarantee next year’s tournament goes ahead as planned.

Following the bushfires that affected this year’s event, Tennis Australia assembled a crisis management team. That same team has put together business and operational plans to address a number of circumstances that could affect the 2021 tournament.

“The first scenario was the event being held in much the same way as 2020, while the second was a tournament with limited crowds….Scenario three was behind closed doors, a broadcast-only event. Scenario four was moving to another time of the year, and scenario five is no event at all,” Tiley told Reuters.

Ticket sales will start in October and five “bio-secure bubbles” will be opened across the country six weeks before the tournament begins to allow players arriving in Australia to avoid restrictive quarantine measures.

Tiley believes he will be able to accommodate 400,000 fans to Melbourne Park in 2021, about half the number that attended this year’s tournament.

The Australian Open is the chief source of revenue for TA and the last edition had a direct economic impact of A$387m ($278m/€235m) on Melbourne, Tiley said. For the 2021 tournament, TA expects turnover and revenue to fall by a double-digit percentage figure but they will not be reducing the A$71m prize money.

Citing cash reserves of A$80m, Tiley said: “I’m optimistic and positive that we’ll have an event and it’ll be in Melbourne.”