Tennis Australia is copying the AFL hub model by shifting all events to Victoria ahead of the Australian Open to ensure the strongest-possible field for the first major of the year.
Tennis Australia will transfer at least five events usually held in Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra and Hobart to Victoria in a blockbuster summer of action.
The move is a further blow to SA’s major sporting events calendar, with the pandemic forcing the cancellation of the Tour Down Under cycling race, while the Marshall Government blamed falling spectator numbers for the decision to axe the longstanding Supercars race through city streets.
The government and Tennis Australia only last week announced a deal for the event to be held at Memorial Drive for the next ten years as part of a taxpayer-funded stadium upgrade, although it was not confirmed that the 2021 event scheduled for January 10-16 had been locked in.
The unprecedented measure will see up to 550 players and their entourages flying into Melbourne from mid-December, where they will be allowed to play and train but be restricted to hotels or the tennis court until they have completed two weeks of quarantine.
They are then free to travel around the state for competition, with some of the tournaments set to be held at regional venues such as Bendigo and Traralgon, subject to approval.
Some events could be played after the Open in a re-worked calender.
Australia’s Ashleigh Barty and Nick Kyrgios will resume competition after electing not to travel overseas this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is now no risk of the Australian Open going ahead without everyone in Victoria and we didn’t have that guarantee previously,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told the Herald Sun.
It remains unclear how many fans will attend the Open, which is scheduled from January 18-31.
Tiley wants at least 25 per cent crowd capacity, which has been confirmed for cricket’s Boxing Day Test against at the MCG.
Tiley compared confining the summer of tennis to Victoria 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.
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