The New Look of the 2022 Australian Open

Australian Open qualifying

The 2022 Australian Open is shaping up to have a vastly different look than the previous year’s tournament, due in part to the possibility of eliminating hard quarantines as well as an altered lineup of players.

Newly crowned Indian Wells champion Paula Badosa will have a starkly different experience, for one.

Previous reports have shown that generally players in hard quarantines did not perform as well at the Australian Open as those who served “soft” quarantines.

Hard Stop

With the wide availability of vaccines, the Australian government and Tennis Australia are considering a plan to all but eliminate hard quarantines for players who are fully vaccinated upon entering the country for the Australian Open, according to a source familiar with discussions.

Instead, fully vaccinated players and those who test negative would serve their two weeks inside an “open bubble” within Melbourne Park, where they would be free to train and move around.

Under one proposal, after the two-week bubble period, players would be free to go wherever they wanted within the country of Australia, according to the source.

Clouds of unfairness hung over the 2021 Australian Open when 72 players were forced to serve a hard quarantine–14 grueling days inside a hotel room, without the possibility of leaving, practicing, opening a window or even feeding the rodents inside the rooms that were some players’ only companionship.

Other players, notably a handful of top stars like Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, and Novak Djokovic, were free to practice and were not so harshly confined because they had either been brought to Australia earlier for exhibitions or because their charter flights were COVID-free.

Badosa was one of the unlucky ones. She tested positive for Covid after taking a charter flight in which some passengers were infected and served 21 arduous days in lockdown.

The Spaniard Badosa said the lockdown drastically hurt her preparations and she would never again serve a hard quarantine before a tournament.

However, now with the widespread use of vaccines, Australian officials are committed to public health measures that will also take into account players’ mental health.

Who Will Play

A vaccine mandate for all players, which was discussed Tuesday by a top government official, presents a serious dilemma for players opposed to either vaccination, mandates or both.

Unvaccinated players must ask themselves if the opportunity to play in a Grand Slam is more important, or if their personal and political convictions on vaccination is more important.

It’s a tough call that wasn’t on the table in 2021.

Not only will players have to decide whether to play, but their vaccine status will also become publicly known based on their presence in the draw.

Players like Aryna Sabalenka have refused the COVID-19 vaccine so far. The World #2 has said she doesn’t trust the vaccine. She tested positive for COVID in October, forcing her to miss Indian Wells.

The highest profile player not to fully endorse vaccination is Djokovic, who declined to reveal if he’s gotten the shot. Even Daniil Medvedev expressed vaccine skepticism earlier this year, and his status is unknown.

Whatever happens between now and January, the draws of the 2022 Australian Open could look dramatically different.

Main Photo from Getty.

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