While the Australian Open isn’t set to start until Feb. 8, several of the world’s best tennis players trickled into Melbourne late this week for the tournament set on a continent that has virtually eliminated COVID-19.
With 11 cases reported in the entire country on Jan. 15, the Australian curve has flattened since early August. The nation is also celebrating two straight days of no new cases reported at the end of the week. They are a global example of contact tracing protocols, warm weather, and unique isolation policy work.
So it should come as no surprise that when athletes are coming from all over the world, they’re treated as vectors.
Tournament Flying in Participants, Staff by Private Charter
Tennis Australia is doing everything it can to make sure the disease stays out of the country. Players are made to take COVID-19 tests before they board their charter flights and after they arrive, and will be tested at least once a day during their mandated quarantine period.
Tournament officials expect about 1,200 players, coaches, security, medical, and support staff to land over the next 36 hours. The charter flights are restricted to 25% capacity, and the last to arrive will be early Saturday.
Five-time AO finalist Andy Murray tested positive for COVID-19 48 hours before his scheduled flight to Melbourne. The three-time Grand Slam champion, who got a wild card to participate, didn’t officially withdraw, but his window to participate is slim.
Murray Not Welcome in Australia with COVID-19, American Keys Out
Tennis Australia said Murray, 33, will miss the charter flights and won’t go through quarantine with other players. While still possible, his chances of appearing in the tournament are slim.
“Andy Murray has advised that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolating at home in the UK,” Tennis Australia said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this means he will be unable to join the official AO charter flights arriving in Australia in the coming days to go through the quarantine period with the other players.”
American Madison Keys tested positive before her scheduled flight and withdrew from the tournament on Thursday after posting on Twitter.
— Madison Keys (@Madison_Keys) January 14, 2021
Her American counterpart, Tennys Sandgren, had the virus in November. He was permitted to fly, as health officials in Australia determined he is no longer contagious, though he may still be shedding viral particles.
A lot couch virologists out there. My two tests were less than 8 weeks a part. I was sick in November, totally healthy now. There’s not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point. Totally recovered!
— Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren) January 14, 2021
The tournament was delayed three weeks because of the pandemic. As a precautionary measure, the AO hosted men’s and women’s qualifiers in Doha, Qatar, and Dubai. It was the first time the tournament’s play-in games were held outside of Australia.
The tournament’s draw is set for Feb. 4 and action will end on Feb. 21 with the men’s single’s final.
A trio of the sport’s biggest names, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams, who is seeking her 24th Grand Slam title, will participate in an exhibition in Adelaide on Jan. 29. Those players arrived in Adelaide earlier this week for their quarantine. All other matches will be in Melbourne.
Australian Open Early Favorites Men
N. Djokovic +1224
D. Thiem +400
D. Medvedev +450
R. Nadal +650
S. Tsitspas +1200
A. Zvrev +1400
A. Rublev +2500
J. Sinner +2500
D. Shapovalov +3300
N. Osaka +650
A Aarty +800
A. Sablenka +800
B. Andreescu +900
S. Williams +1000
I. Świątek +1000
S. Halep +1100
V. Azarenka +1200
K. Plíšková +1400
Odds via Bwin