How officials are managing player arrivals ahead of Australian Open

Tennis stars and their coaching staff have started to arrive in Australia ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on February 8.

About 1,200 players and coaching staff are expected to travel to Australia for the tournament, which has been delayed by three weeks.

But there have already been hiccups, with Andy Murray and Madison Keys banned from travelling due to a positive coronavirus test — and Tennys Sandgren travelling despite a positive test.

There have also been accusations of double standards, with a large number of Australians still struggling to secure flights home — or even Victorians stranded in other red zones — while the tennis stars are given a free passage.

Are all players tested before they travel?

Yes, all the players and their coaches/entourage, which number 1,240 people, have to return a negative test before they can travel.

That ruled out five-time finalist Murray and Keys, who are now both isolating at home.

“We do know that two persons so far have been refused their approvals to be part of that program as a result of their negative tests not being up to scratch — indeed they have been positive,” Victoria’s Deputy Premier Martin Foley said at a press conference Friday morning.

“In regards to Mr Murray, we’ve been clear from the start: anyone who tests positive is not able to be part of the program coming into Melbourne and Australia.”

So what about Tennys Sandgren?

US star Sandgren did test positive in LA but was given special clearance to travel.

Tennys Sandgren holds his tennis racket the wrong way around during his Australian Open quarter-final against Roger Federer.Tennys Sandgren holds his tennis racket the wrong way around during his Australian Open quarter-final against Roger Federer.
Tennys Sandgren tested positive, but was allowed to travel to Australia anyway.(AP: Andy Brownbill)

Sandgren tweeted he tested “COVID positive” on Monday, after originally testing positive in late November, and was initially barred from the flight containing international players out of Los Angeles.

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria released a statement on Thursday saying it had reviewed Sandgren’s positive test result “as per standard processes” and he was cleared to travel to Australia.

It said the evidence in Sandgren’s case “suggested he had recovered from a previous COVID-19 infection and is still shedding viral particles”.

Can Andy Murray still come to play?

A tennis player closes his eye and roars in relief after winning a five-setter at the US Open.A tennis player closes his eye and roars in relief after winning a five-setter at the US Open.
Andy Murray is currently isolating in his home outside London.(AP: Seth Wenig)

Despite missing the charter flight, Murray has not definitively been ruled out of the tournament.

Murray is quarantining at home after his positive test and could still get to Australia, but he’d have to return a negative test first.

“Mr Murray and the other 1,240 people as part of the program need to demonstrate that if they’re coming to Melbourne they have returned a negative test,” Mr Foley said.

“Should Mr Murray arrive, which we’ve seen no indication that he will, he will be subject to those same rigorous arrangements as everyone else.”

Why can tennis players come in when people from red zones within Australia cannot?

Tennis players are arriving in Melbourne from all over the world, but Victorians in “red zones” in New South Wales and Queensland are still locked out.

Mr Foley was asked what message it sent to those Victorians who are locked out when tennis players could come in.

“I understand the frustrations and the dislocations … but even more so, I understand the frustrations and dislocations that another outbreak in Victoria would cause,” Mr Foley said.

“And I apologise for the dislocation that this has caused, but I make no apology for the principle of keeping people safe.”

Questioned as to whether he understood some in the community may perceive the Australian Open arrangements as a double standard, Mr Foley said he understood the frustrations of people whose plans had been disrupted.

“You manage risks in the circumstances that you face. The situation in both the red zones … are a significant issue. They are under constant review,” he said.

He said based on the number of exemptions and permits processed, he was “confident” Victorians who wanted to get home could do so.

Where are the players flying in to?

Naomi Osaka wheels her luggage wearing a black hoody and orange hatNaomi Osaka wheels her luggage wearing a black hoody and orange hat
2019 Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka will tune up for this year’s tournament in Adelaide, after her quarantine period.(AAP: Morgan Sette)

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Melbourne mostly, although a small number have arrived in Adelaide, where they will play an exhibition tournament.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams all arrived in Adelaide with their coaching entourages last night, wearing masks before boarding a bus to a quarantine hotel.

Players in both Adelaide and Melbourne will be under the same quarantine conditions.

Those in Adelaide will play exhibition matches across January 29 and 30, before tournaments commence in Melbourne on January 31.

What happens when the players are here?

In Australia, the players and staff will be required to be “rigorously” quarantined under “special arrangements”, Mr Foley said.

Three extra hotels have been allocated to Tennis Australia for the players, ensuring capacity for other returned travellers is not impacted.

Players will be granted five hours each day outside of their hotel room to train, albeit with strict measures in place.

They will be escorted to specialist training areas — different ones for each hotel — by COVID marshals at all times.

What if a player tests positive in hotel quarantine?

If players tested positive while in hotel quarantine in Melbourne, they would be transferred to a health hotel, where they would be subject to the same quarantine arrangements as other returned travellers.