Craig Tiley has confirmed that the top three men's and women's players - which include Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem - will undergo their mandatory quarantine in Adelaide rather than Melbourne. Tiley, the Australian Open tournament director, spoke about the quarantine arrangements and various other points of interest during a recent chat with Tennis Channel.
The organizers have been working day in and day out to ensure that the 2021 Australian Open adheres to the quarantine-related protocols set forth by the state government. But there were still quite a few concerns around the year's first Slam, which were addressed by Tiley.
The CEO of Tennis Australia clarified that due to Melbourne potentially reaching the upper limit of the number of people it can host in quarantine, some of the top stars would be relocated to Adelaide. He also confirmed that the ATP's top 3 - Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem - will play an exhibition in Adelaide on 29 and 30 January.
"We're right up to the edge on the numbers of people we're allowed to quarantine in Melbourne," Tiley said. "We approached the South Australian government about the possibility of them quarantining at least 50 people. But they wouldn’t have any interest in doing it, because there’s no benefit to them to put their whole community at risk. But it would be a benefit if there was an exhibition just before Melbourne. So we chose the Top 3 men (and Top 3 women) and they’ll play an exhibition on the 29th and 30th of January."
The quarantine conditions for Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic & Dominic Thiem in Adelaide will be the same: Craig Tiley
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem are the players to watch out for at the Australian Open, which has been delayed to February due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now with the separate quarantine arrangements for these three stars, there is even more uncertainty around their preparations for the tournament.
However, Tiley was quick to reassure everyone that the highest safety standards would be implemented in both Adelaide and Melbourne.
"The conditions of the quarantine will be the same," Tiley said. "They’ll be in a different hotel and a smaller cohort, and travel direct to Adelaide. We think this is a great opportunity to actually launch before we go into the season."
Tiley was candid about the troubles faced by Tennis Australia in preparing for the tournaments Down Under. The former tennis coach also revealed some important details about the organizing body's plans for bringing in not just Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, but the rest of the players and their teams too.
"We've never experienced something like this but our team, they're doing a magnificent job," Tiley said. "I can probably summarize in two sentences - we're bringing in 1,270 people on 18 chartered flights from 100 countries around the world, and the chartered flights will be leaving from 7 different cities in a period of 48 hours to quarantine for two weeks, in a modified environment where players have to be in their room for 19 hours a day."
Australian Open site to be divided into 3 zones: Craig Tiley
Craig Tiley also divulged the setbacks he and his team have faced lately, including an airline issue and another with a hotel backing out of quarantining players ahead of the Australian Open.
Earlier this week The Westin Melbourne pulled out of the arrangement to host the players, as the owners of penthouse apartments situated above the property threatened legal action. Tiley also elaborated on the travel problem, revealing that one of the airlines made the decision to not operate flights to Australia due to the country's COVID-19 protocols.
"Three days ago, we had an airline issue," Tiley said. "The airlines decided to not to travel to Australia, so we had to find another aircraft. So every single day, our priority is that the issue is managed. We get up really early, go to bed really late and then we just go through what the issues of the day are potentially gonna be and what they are."
At the end of the chat, the South African gave an outline of how the different tournaments will be played in different stadiums. He revealed that Melbourne Park will be demarcated into Zones 1, 2 and 3, with the four events - Melbourne 1, Melbourne 2, ATP Cup and Australian Open - to be distributed among those zones.
"In the week leading in, we are going to divide the Australian Open precinct into three zones," Tiley said. "It is going to be Rod Laver Arena zone at the 15,000 seat stadium, Margaret Court Arena zone at the 8,000 seat stadium and John Cain Arena zone at the 10,000 seat stadium. You can buy tickets of zone 1, 2 and 3 and you can only stay in that zone and in this way we can contact and trace anyone who is affected by the virus and what they need to do to get to isolation and get tested."
Tiley went on to remark that he expects Melbourne Park to welcome fans at 50-75 percent of its normal capacity - that is, approximately 400,000 fans. The South African also lamented the absence of six-time champion Roger Federer while discussing the players that had pulled out of the event.