Tennis Australia is considering a few different protocols for the 2022 Australian Open, including an “open bubble,” which would allow players to train and compete without having to stay sequestered in a hotel room.
Earlier this week, The Age of Australia reported that the Australian government is leaning heavily toward requiring all players to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 to enter the Australian Open. That could leave players like 20-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic with a conundrum, because the current World #1has stated in the past that he personally opposes vaccines. Djokovic’s current vaccine status for Covid-19 is unknown.
But in addition to the vaccines, the government of Australia also requires the extra protective layer of a quarantine, usually in a hotel, for most visitors entering the country.
Last year, many players had to spend two arduous weeks inside the four walls of a hotel room without the ability to practice or hit on a court, much less leave their room for a walk or to get food.
The process took a sharp toll on players and was roundly criticized as a mental health hazard, albeit a necessary step to protect the physical health of the entire country.
According to a source with knowledge of the Australian Open’s thinking, this year Tennis Australia is considering another option: Placing vaccinated players inside a bubble within Melbourne Park during their quarantine, with freedom to move around and practice. Organizers would set up activities for the players such as music, soccer games, social events, and plenty of opportunities for court time and physical training.
This is seen as a much preferable option for the players’ mental well-being, as well as a compromise for the strict measures to keep the country safe from a COVID-19 outbreak. Nothing has been decided yet, however.
Quarantines and vaccines have been a tricky and fraught problem for sports leagues during the pandemic as officials seek to balance players’ personal concerns with public health.
Several players opted not to play the Australian Open this year due to the strict quarantine measures. A bubble would hopefully be better, though vaccine requirements could cause some hesitation as well.
Main Photo from Getty.