In a major coup, every major tennis tournament of the summer will be held in Victoria and the new deal has big benefits to regional Victorians.
Victoria will throw the biggest tennis party the nation has seen with at least five major events staged here in addition to the Australian Open.
Every big tennis tournament of the summer will be moved to Victoria, in a boost to the economy and spirits of sports fans craving live action.
Tennis Australia has taken the unprecedented step of transferring the showpieces previously scheduled to be held in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart to ensure the world’s best players are in Melbourne for the Open.
While other states will lose popular annual events for 2021, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said Victoria would be jam-packed with tennis this summer.
“The big news is that we are now backing one horse and that is Victoria, because this is where the Australian Open is,” he said.
In another shake-up, international players previously expected to fly into other Australian capitals to quarantine will now travel directly to Melbourne and enter a two-week “bubble’’.
Players, expected to arrive in Melbourne in mid-December and stay until February, will be allowed to play and train but be restricted to hotels or the tennis court until they have completed quarantine.
More than 550 players from around the world will have to twice test negative for COVID-19 before being allowed into the bubble.
But they will be free to move around Victoria once quarantine is completed and join a restricted amount of fans at Melbourne Park for the Open.
“So the Australian Open will be played in an open environment with players moving around freely, as well as fans — at least up to 25 per cent,’’ Mr Tiley said.
He said tennis chiefs “had to make a decision to move everything to Melbourne’’ because other states could not guarantee player quarantine arrangements or make a “commitment of open travel between cities’’.
“There is now no risk of the Australian Open going ahead without everyone in Victoria and we didn’t have that guarantee previously,’’ he said.
Mr Tiley said lead-up events to the Open would be “redesigned’’ and there could be even more events staged after the Open.
“Now it’s a matter of working out with the Victorian government what the quarantining program looks like, that it ensures the safety of the community and then of course the safety of the players coming in,’’ he said.
Queensland announced capacity crowds of up to 52,000 would be allowed for Game 3 of the State of Origin series in Brisbane on Wednesday.
Mr Tiley hoped bigger tennis crowds than currently forecast would be permitted.
“I’m pretty confident that if we are sitting at zero and keep it zero all the way through to January, I think the government will look differently at crowds,’’ he said.
He also revealed regional centres such as Bendigo and Traralgon could host tournaments, subject to approval.
“We would love to be able to host events in regional Victoria,” he said.
“It’s just a matter of finalising the schedule and then finalising the location but we do have an objective if we can to take some of these events to regional Victoria.’’
Mr Tiley compared confining the summer of tennis to Melbourne to the AFL restricting much of its season to Queensland.
“But we have a very different construct to the AFL and cricket because we are bringing in a lot of international people and their entourage so we’ve got to ensure they stay on a very rigid, tough lockdown,’’ he said.
How players travel between courts, hotels and transport are yet to be determined but Mr Tiley said Victorian fans would be the big winners.
“For those that enjoy sport, we are going to say it is the reawakening of sport in Victoria,’’ he said.
STATES’ VARYING STADIUM RULES
● From November 23, crowds up to 25% of stadium capacity
● Up to 25,000 people expected at the Boxing Day Test, with 24-50% of capacity expected at the Australian Open
● Masks currently mandatory, but not yet determined for these events
● Masks recommended
● 50% stadium capacity
● Masks recommended
● 50% stadium capacity
● From Tuesday, 100% seated stadium capacity
● Masks not mandatory
● 50% of seated capacity, up to 40,000
● Masks “expected” when not seated
● No crowd cap
● Masks not compulsory