The Australian Open will get underway as scheduled, even though a worker at one of the Melbourne hotels used to quarantine players tested positive for Covid-19, organisers have said.
The tournament organisers experienced a major setback in recent days after the detection of a Covid-19 case in a hotel quarantine worker at a facility linked to the tennis.
Thursday's warm-up matches at Melbourne Park were called off after the case was announced late on Wednesday, and those who underwent quarantine at the Grand Hyatt hotel were instructed to get tested and isolate until they had a result.
In addition, the eagerly-anticipated draw for the year’s first major tournament had to be put back from Thursday to Friday.
Tournament director Craig Tiley has said the 507 people affected, 160 of them players, would have their tests completed by late Thursday afternoon and expressed his confidence over sticking to the schedule despite the setback.
"This does give us three days for the lead-in events to be completed," Tiley said.
We're absolutely confident the Australian Open will go ahead. We are starting on Monday.
"The probability is very low that there'll been issue. We expect them all to test negative. The plan is to continue to play tomorrow as planned."
If the results all come back negative, the players would be free to participate in the six warm-up events at Melbourne Park - the site of the Australian Open main draw - to allow them to get some match practice after 14 days in quarantine.
Victoria state health officials also said the testing of the tennis cohort was purely precautionary.
"We think the risk to other guests in the hotel - tennis players and their accompanying staff - is relatively low," Professor Allen Cheng said.
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State Premier Dan Andrews has made it clear that the safety of the community is paramount and said there were "no guarantees" the Australian Open would go ahead.
"At this stage, the tennis shouldn't be impacted by this," Andrews said. "These things can change (but) this has been a textbook response to this."
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Michael O'Brien, the leader of the opposition in Victoria's state parliament, called on the government to make a decision by Saturday on whether the tournament would go ahead.
"We don’t want to see a situation as we did with the Grand Prix, where crowds were literally turning up, only to be turned away," he told Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper.
"I think people are entitled to know what's happening, and the government should be making their minds up in the next 24 to 48 hours."
Tiley also said the order of play for Friday, when wet weather is forecast, would be released later on Thursday.
"With the rain, we do have the luxury of having three stadium courts and eight indoor courts," Tiley said. "That will enable us to not get ahead but at least be able to finish by Sunday."
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