Australian Open chief reveals ‘bubble’ plans amid Covid lockdown in parts of country

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The Australian Open tournament director is confident the 2022 event will go ahead, despite lockdown being imposed in parts of the country as Covid cases rise. Craig Tiley announced plans for players including the likes of defending champions Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka to spend two weeks in a ‘bubble’ ahead of the Grand Slam.

The Australian Open had notably strict terms for players entering the tournament earlier this year.

Players entered on specific charter flights and were required to undergo a two-week hotel quarantine, though most were given a few hours a day to train.

Those who travelled on planes that contained people who later tested positive for coronavirus were forced to participate in a ‘hard’ quarantine, unable to leave their rooms for two weeks.

There are now plans for a less-harsh ‘bubble’ to be imposed for the 2022 tournament, now five months away.

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Tournament director Tiley revealed his plans during a Nine Network marketing launch, saying: “There’s a lot of time between now and when we get going but, at this point in time, we’re planning on having a two-week bubble, where the players will be able to move freely between the hotel and the courts.”

The tournament has not yet revealed how many spectators will be allowed into the grounds when the event begins on January 17 next year, but players are expected to be able to come out of the bubble after two weeks and compete.

“They’re protected, they’re kept safe among themselves and safe from the community as well,” Tiley said.

“And after those two weeks, they’ll come out and be able to compete in the Australian Open in front of crowds.”

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Crowds were allowed to attend this year’s Australian Open, but found themselves banned from the stands for most of the tournament when Melbourne suddenly entered a snap-lockdown.

Tiley said Australian Open officials were working closely with the government and health authorities to determine exactly what the crowd capacity would in January.

He is also hoping Australia reaches its target of vaccinating 80% of adults by November, adding: “That will certainly help the situation for the event in January.”

Multiple players have already committed to playing the Australian Open early next year, including reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem, who is eyeing up the Melbourne Slam as his comeback event after shutting his 2021 season down with a wrist injury.

The tournament at Melbourne Park is also expected to be Rafael Nadal’s comeback tournament, after the Spaniard also cut his season short.

The world No 5 has barely been seen since suffering a shock semi-final defeat at Roland Garros.

He later pulled out of Wimbledon and the Olympics, revealing he had picked up a foot injury that left him unable to play tennis for 20 days.

After starting his North American hard court season in Washington, where he won one tight three-set battle and lost another, he flew to Toronto for the ATP 1000 event but later withdrew and flew home to consult his personal doctor.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion then decided to end his season early, pulling out of the upcoming US Open, and promised to try hard to be back next year.

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