Major tennis coup for Victoria as all Australian Open lead-in events are relocated to Melbourne


Victoria will host the entire summer tennis calendar in 2021, after Tennis Australia confirmed it was relocating all events leading up to the Australian Open because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Events usually held in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Canberra will now be held in Melbourne, or at one of the major regional tennis centres in Bendigo or Traralgon.

Tennis Australia says it is yet to finalise quarantine arrangements, but it is expected players will begin to arrive in Melbourne in mid-December to enter a two-week isolation period before events begin.

Players would be confined to their hotels and tennis facilities until they have completed their quarantine period.

The ATP Cup, which was won by Serbia in 2020, was jointly hosted by Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.(AP: Steve Christo)

The Australian Open has been under a cloud since coronavirus forced the cancellation of major sporting events in Australia and across the world.

The second wave of COVID-19 that hit Melbourne also put the event in doubt, but Tennis Australia confirmed in September that the event would go ahead with a reduced number of fans in attendance.

A blow to tennis events interstate

The news has come as a surprise to some tournament organisers, with the director of the Hobart International, Darren Sturgess, saying he was only officially informed of the change last night.

However, he conceded that relocating all events to Melbourne was the right thing to do.

“Unfortunately it became a factor where we needed to advise players and they needed to travel from overseas as well,” he said.

“It’s four weeks before they need to jump on a plane, so it got to a point where there were some inconsistencies where [the Hobart International] wasn’t able to happen this year.”

Ash Barty gears up for a forehand
Ash Barty won the inaugural WTA event in Adelaide in January 2020.(AAP: David Mariuz)

Australian great John Fitzgerald is hopeful the calendar will return to normal in 2022, given the money spent establishing new tournaments, including the WTA event in Adelaide which was won by Ash Barty this year.

“Let’s hope it’s only for this year,” he said.

“The Adelaide event last year was really something special.”



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Nature Strip has plenty to prove as The Everest lead-in heats up


Of course, earlier in July Nature Strip had been confirmed as the world’s top sprinter by the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, a mantle previously held by Battaash.

Like Battaash, Native Strip will contest a similar journey, 1000 metres, in the Concorde Stakes today. Battaash won strong at $1.30 while markets yesterday had Nature Strip, who takes on a worthwhile sparring partner Gytrash, at $1.40. Gytrash holds a decision over him in Flemington’s Lightning Stakes over the same journey.

Black Caviar set the scene for great shortcourse seasons from 2009 to 2013, measured by the way she made a punching bag out of the top-class Hay List. Still her reign lacked the potential of the current three-year-old crop.

However The Everest, in three chapters, two taken by Redzel, very good but not great, and Yes Yes Yes, retired prematurely, this year should sparkle to at least equal Glorious Goodwood, struck by COVID-19, for the Battaash demolition which meant the plans for 5000 to attend were scrapped.

Not so at magnificent Mudgee last Sunday for the Gooree Cup, where the maximum 500 adhered to the tune of CEO Colleen Walker’s: ‘‘Sit down, sit down, you’re rocking the Covid boat’’ at a time when the NSW west is humming about the 30-metre Winx mural, also featuring Hugh Bowman and Chris Waller, on a wheat silo at Dunedoo, home town of the jockey.

Gundagai might have a dog on the tucker box, Coff’s Harbour a Big Banana, but Winx towers taller. Locals say the artist has to work on Bowman’s mouth and Waller’s head, the crane moved in bad weather, but Winx is sweet.

Goondawindi has an imposing Gunsynd statue, and appreciation of greys is very topical with the recent demise of Subzero, outstanding on the racecourse and even better in retirement, with a race tagged the ATC Farewells Subzero Handicap at Randwick today.

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No doubt colour contributes to the popularity of greys like Gunsynd and Subzero while Ming Dynasty also had an event carrying his name at Rosehill last Saturday. Similar to Victoria’s Subzero, Ming Dynasty, following a distinguished career, also starred as a mount for the clerk of the course, Mick Stanley, on Sydney racecourses as well as the charity circuit.

Being a stallion Gunsynd, who bowed to the crowd and was the greatest showhorse of them all, didn’t have the same afterlife as Subzero and Ming Dynasty. Gunsynd, though, did win the Chelmsford, another highlight on today’s Randwick program as did Ming Dynasty (1979), and Winx (2017).

Certainly, the Chelmsford, weight-for-age over 1600 metres, is more my speed than the Concorde. Alas it could produce a Melbourne Cup winner but not a world beater.

Looking for a hunch punt Miss Sentimental, one of the Waller herd of nine in a contest requiring grit as well as pace, is a grey.

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