2021 Australian Open Faces COVID-19 Hurdles

    • Players have been forced to abide by strict safety protocols since landing in Melbourne weeks prior to the Feb. 8 Grand Slam.
    • More than 70 players are quarantining in their hotel rooms following flights with COVID-positive passengers.

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Millions of dollars are on the line, and hotel rooms have become de facto gyms for the tennis season’s first major.

World No. 1 Novak Djokavic resorted to hitting with support staff on a balcony. Norwegian Casper Ruud, the 27th-ranked player, has served against a propped-up piece of furniture.

“Even for guys who are able to train these two weeks, it’s not optimal training,” No. 117 Taro Daniel said. “Five sets would be pretty brutal this time.”

Players have been forced to abide by strict safety protocols since landing in Melbourne weeks prior to the Feb. 8 Grand Slam. More than 70 players are quarantining in their hotel rooms following flights with COVID-positive passengers.

Those who have tested negative are allowed just five hours outside their hotel room each day, including time for practice.

Craig Tiley, the tournament’s director, said quarantine costs may exceed almost $31 million. 

Although winners will receive 33% less in prize money than last year, the total purse is a record $62 million.

  • Players receive over $78,000 just by qualifying for the main draw. They don’t have to win their first match.
  • That figure rises nearly $40,000 for every match won.
  • The singles winner will receive over $2.1 million; the runner-up gets over $1 million.

The Australian Open is the first major international sporting event of 2021. It could potentially set the tone — logistically and financially — for the Tokyo Olympics in July.