Tennis’ top stars face the threat of sanctions if they breach stringent Covid-19 protocols when they arrive this week for an Australian Open deemed by its top boss as needing a “small miracle” to go off without a hitch.
The calendar’s first Grand Slam normally starts in the third week of January but planning for this year’s tournament has been a logistical nightmare for beleaguered organisers.
Tennis Australia initially wanted players arriving in Melbourne by mid-December.
But restrictions on international arrivals to the state of Victoria pushed back the tournament start date to February 8, with a series of WTA and ATP events being played at Melbourne the week before to ensure players are up to speed.
Melbourne was the epicentre of Australia’s largest second wave outbreak of coronavirus, which prompted strict lockdown measures for four months.
This grim backdrop fuelled tense negotiations between government officials, organisers and players to iron out an agreeable health security protocol for the Australian Open.
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