In the haste to keep the Australian Open as close to its January timeslot as possible better alternatives may have been overlooked, according to John Alexander, the former Australian Open doubles champion, now the federal Member for Bennelong.
- John Alexander said Tennis Australia was “too hasty” in its decision to stick to its schedule
- Alexander said northern hemisphere players would not get the time they needed to acclimatise
- Alexander said players criticising the quarantine requirements were “a tad spoilt”
One suggestion put forward was to host back-to-back events in December 2021 and January 2022, making Australia the epicentre of world tennis for two months.
“Had that option been taken — and it still might be forced on us if we can’t get it up, starting on the 8th of February — that would’ve given much, much more time for us to come to terms with the COVID virus, much more time to make arrangements with players, [and] it would have reduced the cost for setting up the various events because you’d be setting up for two events not just one,” he told The Ticket.
“We might also have seen who was going to be the greatest of all time because you might have a [Novak] Djokovic or a [Roger] Federer with two grand slams within a period of two months.
“There were quite a few arguments why that might not be the worst idea but we are stuck with what we are doing now … there is still a possibility that things will get too difficult and it might have to be postponed, but I would advocate rather than not do it, to look at doing one in December and another one in January.”
While praising the extraordinary lengths Tennis Australia had gone to, with support from the Victorian Government, Alexander said the decision to stick with the event early in the calendar year may have been too hasty.
“When you make hasty decisions, maybe the other options weren’t tabled or fully worked through,” he said.
“But with the difficulties we are encountering now, and there are many, we seem to be coping quite well — but I think at best it’s going to be a compromised championship because so many of the players won’t have a fair opportunity to prepare.
“A big part of preparing for the Australian Open, especially for a great majority of the players coming from the northern hemisphere winter and then having to acclimatise to our weather conditions of temperatures in the mid-30s and 40s, it sometimes takes more than one week [of] intense practice and training under those conditions, it’s more like a two-week exercise and the players in lockdown aren’t having that opportunity.”
Fourteen-day lockdown ‘not that big a price to pay’
World number one Djokovic, who is quarantining in Adelaide, has been widely criticised for making a list of suggestions to help those players who are under the strictest lockdown rules.
He has come under fire from the 45th-ranked player in the world, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who has had the benefit of preparing for the Open without any quarantining constraints.
Alexander says many of the younger players will have their minds broadened by playing at this year’s Open and having to deal with Australia’s strict approach to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the great things of travel is that it’s said to broaden your mind, and you’ve got players coming from all around the world and they’re hypercritical,” Alexander said.
“But if they understood what we have gone through here in this country, and in particular Victoria, and how well we have combatted the COVID virus and all that it brings, they might then have some appreciation as to why the rules are so strict,” he said.
“And then they might understand that it’s probably not a bad deal — they’re having their airfares paid, their hotel paid, their food paid and they get a minimum $100,000 in prizemoney if they’re in the main draw.
“That’s not a bad deal and, as somebody else said from the Victorian Government, ‘They’re asked to spend 14 days in quarantine, our entire state had 111 days in lockdown.’
“But you know, you get young people, who are very, very, successful, they make a lot of money and if they can’t get the booking at the right table in the right restaurant at the right time it’s a major problem for some of them.
“They’re a tad spoilt possibly, a bit privileged, but I think it will broaden their takeaway that they’ll understand that Australia has actually done outstandingly well and the effort that Tennis Australia is going to — and the costs to try to stage this event as close to the traditional date as possible — is Herculean and it would be nice if people co-operated and realised they are one of the major beneficiaries in getting the tournament on.”
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