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‘Risks are too high’: Readers respond to the Australian Open

Players wait in front of the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, with staff in full PPE.

Players wait in front of the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, with staff in full PPE.Credit:Getty

Scott Spits, the sports reporter for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald who broke the news of the first positive cases linked to the grand slam can understand readers’ responses to the news.

“The decision to plough ahead and stage a major sporting event – with the more than 1200 international arrivals that come with it – is understandably contentious and there’s little surprise our readers, and Victorians and Australians generally, have strong views about it,” he said. “This is a high-stakes situation. The Victorian government and health authorities believe they have the capacity to manage any outbreaks connected with the contingent of Australian Open arrivals and, as a result, they will suffer significant reputational damage if things go awry.

“Equally, Tennis Australia wants to play a key part in Victoria’s revival – economically and by lifting the mood of the community – by successfully running an event that is a mainstay of the state’s major events strategy. In the background there’s the threat – real or imagined – that Australia’s national tennis tournament could lose its grand-slam status due to skipping a year, but opinions are well and truly varied on that.”

Tennis Australia says players were warned they would do 14 days of hard lockdown if they were deemed a close contact of a positive case.

Tennis Australia says players were warned they would do 14 days of hard lockdown if they were deemed a close contact of a positive case.Credit:Eddie Jim

These opinions included the following:

Mogly Kingston: “Shouldn’t be happening. Risks are too high. The resources should instead be spent on helping residents return safely. [But] I also feel for professional athletes about to spend two weeks in a small box.”

Aquarius: “As a business owner still under incredibly heavy and limiting restrictions, wondering daily if I’ll have enough money at the next pay cycle to pay my staff, [the AO] makes my blood boil. We are all sacrificing so much, and did so for so long under the last lockdown, how can the government jeopardise this with such a stupid folly? I can’t stand listening to the spin about the possibility of losing grand slam status, it just doesn’t wash when even the Olympics were delayed. Sport is not king.”

Roger Roger: “I am no fan of Daniel Andrews and his leadership during this pandemic … however the decision to proceed with the AO is one he got right. There will be bumps in the road but if they manage quarantining correctly then it will work out fine. We need some return to things people love. It is good for our collective national mental health for these events to proceed so in this instance please lay off Dan and be proud that we can and will host a COVID-free grand slam.”

WillamB: “After months of lockdown and sacrifice by Victorians in 2020 and 800+ lives lost, Mr Andrews is concerned about losing the Australian Open to another country! … Now enormous risks bringing tennis players and support people from countries around the world struggling with the virus. Protect Victorians not the Australian Open.”

Porridge “Zero sympathy for these players. Not a fantastic way to prepare for a tournament but this is our community not theirs. They will be on the next flight out and we will have to clean up the mess if there is an outbreak. They’ll still pocket a very good amount of cash even if they get knocked out in the first round.”

1984: “Reading thru these comments one could think the sky was about to fall in – so much hysteria and rampant speculation about what may happen … I’m more concerned about the tennis players who have to endure 14 days of hard lockdown and the disadvantage that this will place them under. Nevertheless, the optics of the situation don’t look good when you have Victorians stuck interstate who can’t get [home] not to mention all the Aussies stuck overseas.”

Ernie’s Milkcart thinks the AO is being unfairly targeted:The test for the Australian Open is no different to the Melbourne Cricket Test. And that was not a problem. We also had spring racing in Melbourne. International horses and jockeys. No problem. I do not see the difference … In no way does this event impact on a single Australian trying to get home or someone attempting to travel interstate. Comparing apples and pears.”

Kafem said: “It’s always all about the money, isn’t it?” but neither the money angle nor comparing the cricket to the tennis made sense to Andy: “I don’t understand this from a $$ perspective, with fluid state borders that put interstate spectators at risk on a moment’s notice, international visitors can’t fly in to enjoy it. What was the point? I suppose they’ve done this international sport thing with only a couple of glitches with the cricket – but tennis is different. India is one cricket team and entourage, not lots of individual players with their separate entourages.”

Faith in the willingness of elite sportspeople and their entourages to toe the line was at a low ebb for some readers.

Sonia Henderson: “I’m expecting we will find some bored members of the ‘entourage’ out on the town next week in breach of quarantine.”

DDS: Let us hope that tennis players are more honourable than some cricketers and football players, and do actually respect their quarantine requirements, otherwise it won’t be long before they are spotted in restaurants, shops etc. And we all know what might happen then!”

While many readers have been damning about the Andrews government’s decision to hold the AO, Matthew asked: “Do you really think the Libs would have cancelled the tennis? These are the guys who think living with COVID is normal. If it was up to the Libs, we would be the same as the UK. Have a look overseas.”

Sue Black: “This must have been an incredibly hard decision to make. Dan has been criticised for being too cautious so he would not have gone ahead unless he really felt we would lose the tournament. Fingers crossed.”

Bill G wants everyone “to calm down. The reason we have a quarantine program for the Australian Open is because we knew that it was highly likely that some of the international arrivals would be COVID positive. The system is working as expected.”

To which Andy 1 replied: “Except that we’ve seen many times before that the virus can escape from quarantine. It’s not a foolproof system.”

Some readers support the event and some are amused by the antics of the players, including their complaints. Doctor h even wonders if “some players might utilise their enforced isolation to focus on improving their mental endurance to deal with unexpected adversity. Hopefully flared tempers will dissipate by February 8 and the AO will be a success.”

Gordon: “I don’t see why [tennis players with an entitled attitude] would turn us off the tennis – it never has in the past. If anything, it is a bonus. We normally expect these players to entertain us on the court, this year they are entertaining us with three weeks until the first serve. I cannot wait for Nick Kyrgios to offer his commentary. The tennis gets better every day this year!”

Online readers of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age made 43,344 comments on 490 stories in the past week.

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