MIKE DICKSON: Australian Open is looking like one hell of a gamble

MIKE DICKSON: The Australian Open is looking like one hell of a gamble… Its organisers face the serious issues of guarding against becoming a major spreader and ensuring the wellbeing of players isolated in hotel rooms

  • There are two serious issues facing the Australian Open in the next two weeks
  • Officials must guard against the event become some sort of major spreader
  • They must ensure the wellbeing of those spending isolation in hotel rooms

The road to hell is paved with good intentions as those trying to put on the Australian Open may be reflecting upon.

The aim of keeping the global tour going was noble but the danger of a brutal collision with reality was always acute.

Trying to bring more than 1,000 athletes, coaches and officials from all over the world into a country jealously guarding its largely Covid-free status — what could possibly go wrong? Tennis Australia and the Victorian health authorities have looked an uneasy alliance. A few days after the great influx, all are deep in damage-limitation mode.

Bernard Tomic’s girlfriend Vanessa Sierra has slammed hotel quarantine living conditions

A window into what is going on has been provided through social media posts. So far many of these have been cheerful, with players showing how they have set up makeshift training facilities. 

Bernard Tomic’s girlfriend and quarantine companion, Vanessa Sierra, has convulsed the internet with the news that she is not used to washing her own hair! Yet there are two very serious issues facing the Australian Open in the next two weeks.

The first, and more obvious, is guarding against the positive tests uncovered so far making the event become some sort of major spreader. 

Sierra, a former contestant on Love Island, has complained about the lack of hair salon access

The second is ensuring the wellbeing of the large number of participants who are beginning two weeks’ isolation in a hotel room. Will they be posting jokey videos a week from now or will there be tales of desperation? Watching rivals having five hours of practice a day won’t help.

There’s little point now in extending the current blame game about exactly who was told what. Whether warnings about the harsh consequences of just one passenger testing positive for the rest of the plane were explicit enough. Tennis players are notoriously hard to coerce and communicate with, but contrary to some perceptions, most are not spoilt brats. The majority are behaving sensibly, but they are young and a long way from home — and some will be anxious.

It does appear that Tennis Australia were too ambitious in their original plans to stage events around the vast nation, as is usual. It was only on November 15 that the plan was switched to host everything in Melbourne, and it is a huge logistical undertaking.

Novak Djokovic was slapped down for demanding that players receive special treatment

The past 25 years have seen the Australian Open go from being the poor relation of the Slams to the envy of the sport.

It is a blockbuster which assiduously courts the top players and they queue up to praise it each year. Now it faces its biggest crisis of modern times. Everything will be done to ensure the next 10 days are negotiated without further drama, before all the players are released into the sunshine and a sceptical local community.

But now the Australian Open is looking one hell of a gamble. 

Aryna Sabalenka practices against the hotel window during quarantine in Melbourne

Tennys Sandgren was keen to show he was fighting fit by weightlifting an exercise bike

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