Australian Open organizers decided not to reduce the men’s tournament to a best-of-three sets format on Tuesday, a discussion that stemmed from athletes not being able to train properly due to COVID-19 quarantine rules.
Despite the quarantine rules putting a stress on those trying to train, Australian Open director Craig Tiley rejected changing the men’s bracket.
“We’re a Grand Slam at the end of the day and right now, three out of five sets for the men and two out of three sets for the women is the position we plan on sticking to,” Tiley said, according to Reuters.
In total, 72 players are currently quarantining hotel rooms for 14 days after three different charter flights to Australia had passengers test positive for COVID-19. In addition, the remaining players that weren’t on those flights — and who have not tested positive for COVID-19 — are allowed to have five hours outside of their hotel rooms on a daily basis. Most are using every minute to prepare for the tournament, which is set to get underway on Feb. 8 and run until Feb. 21.
Having only five hours per day to prepare for the upcoming Australian Open has some worried that the athletes will be more vulnerable than usual to injuries in this year’s tournament. It’s what lead to the discussion among organizers of potentially changing the format.
“A few players came up with the idea to bring it down to three sets this time, which I think would make a lot of sense,” Japanese player Taro Daniel told the Herald Sun. “Because even for guys who are able to train these two weeks, it’s not optimal training. You’re limited to two hours a day and one hour of gym – so five sets would be pretty brutal this time.”
The decision to not tweak any quarantine rules or tournament format comes after the top-ranked men’s player in the world, Novak Djokovic, issued a series of demands to Tiley and event organizers pertaining to the COVID-19 protocols. Victoria premier David Andrews announced that the country wasn’t altering any of the province’s COVID-19 guidelines after seeing Djokovic’s demands.