Tennis

Australian Open chief says tournament will start on time despite Covid scare

More than 500 players and support staff underwent coronavirus tests after coming into possible contact with a hotel worker in Melbourne.
More than 500 players and support staff underwent coronavirus tests after coming into possible contact with a hotel worker in Melbourne. DAVID GRAY AFP

Australian Open supremo Craig Tiley insisted on Thursday the tennis season’s first Grand Slam event would begin as scheduled on Monday despite more than 500 players and coaches being forced to isolate after coming into possible contact with a positive coronavirus case.

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“We fully expect the probability is very low that there's going to be any issue, we fully expect them all to test negative,” said Tiley. “We're absolutely confident the Australian Open is going to go ahead.

Thursday's warm-up matches at Melbourne Park - where the two week tournament will be held until 21 February - were called off after the case was announced on Wednesday night.

A man who had tested negative on 29 January was found to be positive on a subsequent test on 2 February.

Players and their coaching teams who have been staying at the Grand Hyatt hotel were instructed to get tested and isolate until they had a result.

Organisers said once negative results have been returned, players will be free to participate on Friday in the six warm-up events.

Australian player Matt Ebden published his test results on social media.

“What we’re doing does give us three days for the lead-in events to complete,” added Tiley.

The state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, endured one of the longest and toughest lockdowns in the world to contain the coronavirus. Wednesday's case was the first to be locally acquired in the province for almost a month.

Although state health officials said the testing of the tennis set was precautionary, Dan Andrews, the province’s top politician, said there were no guarantees the tournament would go ahead if he felt it was unsafe.

Michael O'Brien, the leader of the opposition in Victoria's state parliament, called on the government to decide by Saturday whether the tournament should continue.

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