Delayed from commencing on 18 January, the 2021 Australian Open is likely to go ahead from 8 February but as yet I can’t see that confirmed on the AO website. From what I’ve understand the delay is to allow time to figure out the details of how it will work. And there are a lot of aspects to consider.
News is that Tennis Australia, the organisation that runs AO, will pay costs for players to quarantine for 14 days before the tournament. They can arrive in Australia from 15 January and will be allowed out in a bubble for up to five hours per day to train. They will be tested for COVID-19 regularly.
In terms of the lead up tournaments, my best guess is that they can’t go ahead under these circumstances, but I can’t find confirmation.
As well as working out a COVID safe plan for players, this is also needed for all the people who work at AO, taking into consideration the short time frame they will have to learn it and get it right. Plus the implications if they get it wrong. This includes the ball kids, umpires, drivers, staff at the grounds, media and others.
I’m Mel, @grandslamgal on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
If you’re not familiar with me or my blog, I am a HUGE tennis fan.
Other than when I was travelling I’ve lived in Melbourne for 30 years since moving here for Uni.
The Australian Open is my home grand slam and I love it; the players, the colours, the grounds, the outfits, the practice courts, the snack packs, watching live, watching on TV, tweeting about it, Insta’ing it and sharing the experience with family and friends.
I first attended in 1989 when the tournament moved from Kooyong to Melbourne Park.
While I missed some years in the 1990’s I’ve been to the AO every year, multiple times, for at least the last 20 years.
I’ve seen the courts change from green to blue, the multiple re-naming’s of what is now John Cain Arena, the expansion of the grounds, the ever expanding ways to sell more tickets, the ever increasing price of tickets, the growth of the AO social media accounts and sponsor engagement. Aside from all the tournament specific experiences, I’ve been there for many amazing and memorable matches. Seeing players who aren’t well known in Australia become superstars and seeing superstars play at their highest level.
I started this blog in 2010, prior to doing the ‘fan slam’ in 2012 by attending all four grand slam tournaments in the same year; Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open. Since then I’ve shared my experiences about attending the tournaments, how to buy tickets, getting to the grounds, comparing the tournaments and hundreds (maybe thousands!) of player photos.
Grand Slams in 2020
Australian Open 2020 went ahead in January as usual.
From there the slippery slope of COVID-19 and lockdowns began.
The French Open was moved from the original dates in May and went ahead starting late September, with spectators. At a time when France was recording around 16,000 new cases per day.
Wimbledon, which generally starts late June, was cancelled.
New York went through an incredibly tough lockdown earlier this year and then the US Open went ahead successfully in September, but without spectators.
Pre-sale tickets were on sale for the 2021 Australian Open for the original dates, which I guess will be usable once the actual dates are confirmed.
Discussions with Tennis Australia, the Victorian government and other parties are ongoing.
I wanted to explain how I feel, as someone who loves the Australian Open and lives in Melbourne.
Also to confirm that when I say ‘we’ in this article obviously I can’t speak for everyone in Melbourne or Victoria, but this describes feelings that I experienced, along with many people that I know.
While everyone is aware of what it’s like to live in a world where COVID-19 and lockdowns exist, it’s been well documented that Melbourne went through one of the longest and toughest lockdowns in the world.
We’ve had some level of restrictions since late March and for 111 days we could only leave our homes for essential shopping or one hour of exercise.
We couldn’t travel more than 5km from where we live. Which meant a lot of people couldn’t see their family or friends.
A ‘ring of steel’ was created around the edges of Melbourne so people couldn’t travel to regional Victoria or into Melbourne without a valid permit. There was a strong police presence enforcing this.
We couldn’t visit other people’s homes and wore masks whenever outside where we lived.
There was a night-time curfew. Not that there was anywhere to go at night with cafes, bars and restaurants closed other than for take-away.
If you could work from home you had to work from home. There was a lot of home schooling. Imagine you’re someone who usually works from home then suddenly your partner is working there too and your kids need to take over the dining table for schooling.
On 5 August we recorded the highest ever day of case numbers in Victoria at 725. Freaking out about this number probably seems crazy if you’re living in a location recording thousands or tens of thousands of cases per day. But this was scary for us, as the case number increased despite restrictions, and didn’t come back down as quickly as expected. And that’s why the thought of players, teams and entourages visiting Melbourne from countries that will probably still have high numbers is all the more scary.
I run a business and feel lucky that it’s a digital business so we could continue to work and provide work to our contractors. A key goal was to help all our local clients get through this tough time in whatever way we could help.
I’m connected to a lot of Melbourne business owners who are also my friends. While the government provided financial support to some businesses, I’m fully aware of the immense impact of lockdown on Melbourne business owners due to lack of or low revenue and still needing to pay rent, even if it was deferred. Many now face big debts. I live near the city and during my daily walk I saw all the businesses that were closed, or up for sale or lease. It’s heartbreaking.
Melbourne, the regularly awarded ‘most liveable city in the world’ changed into being a place where you didn’t want other people to walk close to you or stand near you at traffic lights, where you didn’t want ‘mask free’ runners or cyclists coming near you and where you no longer felt comfortable being friendly to strangers.
Our Premier, Daniel (Dan) Andrews, held a press conference every day for 120 consecutive days. Politics isn’t my bag so I can admit that I didn’t know his name at the start of the year. But since March we waited for the pressers and announcements about case numbers and restrictions and started caring about what he was wearing. If Dan wore his North Face jacket (generally on weekends when the big announcements were made), the announcements wouldn’t be too bad. Wearing a suit on weekends meant we could expect bad news.
Having said that, I think we did lockdown in style in a Melbourne kind of way.
We are lucky.
Sure we were isolated, couldn’t get a haircut or go to the dentist, but we have internet. We have Zoom, Netflix and all the other things and can pretty much get anything delivered to our door. We did regular Zoom meetups with friends, online birthday parties, online cooking classes, online shopping, helping and supporting each other whenever we could, messaging and calling friends and family regularly. Everyone who could supported the local businesses that quickly adapted to an online focus with whatever they offered.
But regardless, it was long.
The second lockdown was almost four months. It started around three months after the first lockdown. Restrictions were only eased for a few weeks in between.
It was tough.
I think we’re all at least a little bit damaged by the experience.
We weren’t welcome in other states of our own country as borders were shut to Victorians. We stopped being One Australia. The governments of each state seemed to be fighting about which borders were open and who to, and quarantine requirements. The Queensland border only re-opened to Victorians on 1 December.
As of today (8 December) Victoria has achieved 39 days of no new COVID-19 cases or deaths. There are no active cases. Getting to 28 days straight gave us COVID elimination status.
So here we are.
I want the Australian Open to go ahead.
It’s good for Melbourne, it’s good for tennis fans and it’s good for tennis.
But whatever happens I’m not going to attend. I’m just not ready to be near big crowds and have a lot of people that I don’t know in my near vicinity. Especially when there will be people present who have arrived from outside Australia, even though they would have passed quarantine.
Many friends feel the same.
To quote Dan Andrews:
“So we are unique in that we’ve built something that no one else has built across the nation … and on that basis, we have to safeguard that, [and] I think we can.”
There is now a saying that ‘if you weren’t here you can never understand what it was like’.
While we made the best of lockdown, I hope I didn’t make it sound better than it was.
Truth is people were isolated.
We lived through the uncertainty of when lockdown would end and the ever-changing plans from our government about easing restrictions.
We worried about our family and friends.
For many people their mental health suffered.
Many businesses took a huge hit.
We worried that we might be the person that accidentally caught and spread the virus. So we diligently wore our masks and socially distanced and washed and sanitised our hands and wiped surfaces and were careful about everything we touched outside our home.
Please don’t judge Melbourne for being protective of our COVID-19 free status when you read articles about Aus Open 21.
It took a lot of sacrifices to achieve it and we deserve it.
And despite how much I truly love tennis and the Australian Open, I’m a least a little bit scared of it all coming undone.