COVID-positive players allowed to compete at 2023 Australian Open

While memories of international tennis stars doing quarantine for 14 days in hotel rooms – complete with constant testing – remain fresh in fans memories, competitors at the 2023 Australian Open will be allowed to compete when COVID-positive.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed the ruling at a press conference on Monday, where he explained players would be free from mandatory COVID tests, but would be encouraged to stay at home if feeling unwell.

“We’ve made it clear to our players, as well as our over 12,000 staff. We ask … if anyone is feeling unwell, stay home,” Mr Tiley said. “It’s a normalised environment for us and, not dissimilar to the cricket, there will potentially be players that will compete with COVID.”

Players would not even have to reveal a positive test if they did not want to.

“We just wanted to follow what’s currently in the community,” Mr Tiley said. “We have gone a step further by making a recommendation around staying away when you’re ill, and that our medical staff, Dr Karen Holzer is the best in the business, she will continue to monitor that, with the players individually as well.”

These rules are a far cry from the last couple of Australian Open tournaments, including last year, when Serbian champion Novak Djokovic was deported because he did not have a COVID vaccination.

Djokovic Australian Open

Djokovic returned to Melbourne on Monday, a year after he was deported. Photo: Getty

Although that issue has reared its head again for the 2023 tournament, with Italian Camila Giorgi alleged to have submitted a false vaccination certificate to enter Australia for her 2022 Australian Open campaign.

If true, the world no.69 could be deported.

Australia’s world no.24 Alex de Minaur supports the changes allowing players to play while COVID-positive.

“I think we, as players and as human beings, we’ve kind of gone through a very tough situation throughout a couple years,” de Minaur said. “I think we’re all excited to be back competing, moving around freely, enjoying life as it used to be. We’re just happy to be back where it was pre-COVID.”

There have been numerous examples of cricketers, both overseas and in international and domestic matches in Australia, playing despite a positive COVID test of late.

Australian batter Mat Renshaw was the latest, testing positive on a rapid antigen test on the morning of his Test return in the New Year’s Test at the SCG against South Africa.

He had to isolate in his own change room for the first three days, but was still able to play.

Tiley brushes off move calls

Meanwhile, Mr Tiley conceded the international tennis season is too long but dismissed suggestions the first grand slam of the year should be rescheduled.

There are consistently calls to move the Melbourne Park tournament to a different time of year to avoid Australia’s fierce heat, condense the annual schedule and give players more time to prepare following the briefest of off-seasons.

Momentum for change is growing after several high-profile withdrawals, including men’s No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, while women’s top seed Iga Swiatek is among those to pull out of lead-in events due to niggling injuries.


Spanish teen Carlos Alcaraz recently became the ATP Tour’s youngest year-ending world No.1. Photo: Getty

“You talk to every player, this is the season. It starts in January. It starts here in Australia,” he said.

“The sport does need to get together and look at the length of it [the season].

“But Australia is the summer, Australia is January and this event is, from the players’ perspective, one of their favourite places to play.

“They’re coming here earlier, we’re now seeing players here for six weeks, for seven weeks and the preparation for the Australian summer is very normalised – they know what they need to do.”

If Melbourne Park organisers are unwilling to budge, it could put pressure on tennis authorities to push for the latter stages of the season to be wrapped up more quickly.

– with AAP

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