Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula says the 2021 Australian Open is "likely" to be delayed by one to two weeks, but reiterated the situation is evolving quickly, as tennis star Andy Murray threw his support behind players being subject to compulsory COVID-19 vaccination “for the good of the sport”.
Negotiations between Tennis Australia and the Andrews government have been ongoing, with TA hopeful as recently as Tuesday that the tournament will still start on the planned date of January 18.
Andy Murray has backed compulsory vaccines to restart the tennis tour.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
According to sources familiar with the negotiations, host broadcaster Nine – owner of this masthead – will want the start date to be as closed to January 18 as possible, to maximise summer ratings and avoid rearranging its schedule.
"There's a number of potential dates on the title of the report suggests that it's likely they will be delayed by a week or two. I think that's still most likely, but it's not the only option," Mr Pakula said.
"I still think it's much more likely that it will be a shorter [delay] rather than a longer one."
Ideally, international players would want to be able to train and play in a bubble, meaning they could complete quarantine while preparing for the grand slam. But Pakula wouldn't be drawn into specifics.
"They'll certainly be in quarantine, the exact nature of that quarantine, whether or not it's their own bubble, or something more common is still part of those conversations but I'm not going to conduct those conversations and negotiations in the public domain."
Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters he would not risk the health of Victorians, who have fought so hard to stop the spread of the virus.
“The rest of the world is on fire, so there will be quarantine for anyone coming to our city or state,” Mr Andrews said on Sunrise on Wednesday.
“You’ve got 250,000 cases a day in the United States, Europe is not much better, many parts of Asia are really struggling.
“As important as a tennis tournament is, we’re not going to jeopardise our coronavirus status by anything other than the highest standards.”
Meanwhile, three-time major winner Murray has thrown his support behind tennis players being subject to compulsory COVID-19 vaccination “for the good of the sport”.
However he said any vaccination needed to be safe and protected by clinical trials.
Asked by reporters whether players needed to be vaccinated in order to compete at tournaments, Murray said: “Good question. Yeah, I think probably should be the case.
“I would hope that all the players would be willing to do that for the good of the sport – providing everything has proved to be safe, clinical trials and everything have been done and there are not any significant side effects.
“I guess we’re not going to know the long-term effects potentially for a while. But, from what I’ve been hearing on the TV and on the news, is that there shouldn’t really be any long-term effects. So I would hope, providing all the clinical trials and everything have been done, that the players would all be willing to do that.”
World No.1 Novak Djokovic is one player who has openly voiced his concerns about compulsory vaccination, especially in order to be able to travel freely.
Earlier this year the 17-time major winner tried to clarify his stance by saying by saying he was keeping an “open mind”.
“I am no expert, but I do want to have an option to choose what’s best for my body,” Djokovic said in a statement reported by The New York Times. “I am keeping an open mind, and I’ll continue to research on this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.”
Murray indicated that players would be supportive of vaccination if it resulted in a return to normal. “So I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the ATP and the ITF decide what their position is going to be on that. But I’m confident that players would be into it if it meant the tour going back to normality.”
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