Australian Open tune-up Kooyong Classic called off


Melbourne (AFP)

Australia's summer of tennis suffered a setback Thursday with the Kooyong Classic exhibition called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisers said safety was their main consideration in cancelling the Melbourne event for men and women, a traditional tune-up played in the week before the Australian Open Grand Slam in January.

"We've made the big decision to push the pause button on the Kooyong Classic for 2021," they said in a statement, adding: "Covid-19 is presenting so many challenges for the whole community.

"With everyone's safety first and foremost in mind, and still so much uncertainty over the outlook for the rest of 2020 and beyond, we feel that this is the right thing to do."

Melbourne is currently under lockdown due to Covid-19, although the number of new cases has been declining.

Australian Open officials are forging ahead with plans to stage the first Grand Slam of 2021 at Melbourne Park, despite the city battling a second wave of coronavirus cases.

Tournament chief Craig Tiley has said contingencies were in place, with reduced seating due to social distancing, players in a bio-security "bubble" and the likelihood of no overseas spectators.

Other pre-Australian Open tournaments include the ATP Cup team event in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane and WTA tournaments in Brisbane and Adelaide.

The pandemic has hit sport hard in Melbourne with this year's Australian Rules grand final, which has been played there since 1898, moved to Brisbane.

The fate of several other major sporting events in Australia's second city is yet to be determined, including cricket's Boxing Day Test in December.

Racing officials insist the Melbourne Cup will go ahead in November, but whether it has large crowds and a world-class field of imported thoroughbreds remains uncertain.

This year's Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne's Albert Park was cancelled at the last minute in March as the virus emerged in the city.