Aussie Open aspiring for up to half-full stadiums


Melbourne (AFP)

Australian Open chiefs are hoping to see Melbourne Park's stadiums up to half full at the opening Grand Slam of 2021 in January.

The fate of the tournament remains up in the air with Victoria state battling a second wave of Covid-19, although the caseload is dropping.

Several big events in the country's second biggest city, including the Australian Rules grand final and a Wallabies Test against the All Blacks, have already fallen victim to the pandemic.

But Australian Open chief Craig Tiley remains optimistic that the Grand Slam will go ahead, with at least some fans to cheer on the players, in contrast to the US Open which is spectator free.

"Under what we expect the restrictive conditions to be, 25 percent crowds would be the bottom end and 50 percent would be the top end," he told the Melbourne Age on Thursday.

"But a lot's going to depend on the condition of the environment at that time.

"I would be jumping up and down if that was the result," Tiley added. "That's our aspiration. (But) anything is possible."

Tiley has previously said contingency plans were in place for Melbourne Park, with reduced seating due to social distancing, players in a secure bio-security "bubble" and the likelihood of no overseas spectators.

"Players, if they come to Melbourne they'll stay in Melbourne for 14 days and we'll create a bubble between the hotel, transport and the courts," he said Thursday.

A key lead-up event to the Australian Open is scheduled to be the 24-nation ATP Cup team tournament, with groups games in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane before the finals in Sydney.

But with uncertainty over whether players will be able to cross state borders without quarantining for 14 days, the newspaper said Tennis Australia was mulling a single location.

"We're working closely with the ATP, and the players," said Tiley.