Warm-up events at the Australian Open will resume on Friday, just three days out from the tournament’s start.
Thursday’s matches in WTA and ATP events were postponed after a positive COVID-19 test for a worker in the Grand Hyatt, which was used as a quarantine hotel, forced more than 500 players and staff to get tested and head back into isolation.
Those matches were rescheduled for Friday. The rest of the tournament has been condensed into next three days to ensure all matches are finished in time for Monday’s Australian Open start.
It also delayed the draw for the first major of the year.
Players who were not at the infected hotel were able to continue training as normal, but matches could not go on without such a large portion of the draw.
Australian veteran Matt Ebden got his negative test back, along with 494 other players and support crew, by Friday morning. Only 12 results remained outstanding.
Not everyone was thrilled with the arrangement, with French star Benoit Paire tweeting his dismay.
“As luck would have it, one more day of isolation for the players who were at the Hyatt and which hotel was I in????!!!!!!!” the world No.28 wrote on Thursday afternoon.
He said it was becoming too complicated to play tennis and that he would “avoid saying what I think about COVID because I will annoy a lot of people”.
He added that he was “not complaining”, because he was aware many people were worse off than him.
Despite Paire’s tweets, Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said most players had taken the delay in stride.
“The players have been remarkable,” Tiley said on Thursday.
“They’ve been 14 days in quarantine, some of them longer, and it took them a while to get used to that as we all know with their comments.
“But the majority have been fantastic … when we made the calls last night and this morning, they completely accepted it and have all gone and got tested.
“They’ve been very appreciative of the opportunity to play and I had a number of calls … from them confirming that we want this to happen and we will do whatever.”
Thursday’s delay means some players will likely play multiple matches in a day ahead of Monday’s Open start.
That includes Australian world No.1 Ash Barty, who will play American Shelby Rogers in the quarter-finals of the Yarra Valley Classic.
That could set up a semi-final against 23-time major champion Serena Williams, who is playing US compatriot Danielle Collins in the quarters. Another quarter will be a rematch of the 2020 Australian Open final between Garbine Muguruza and Sofia Kenin.
In what is likely to be a relief for some, the women players will face no gruelling third sets.
All WTA singles matches in the Melbourne Summer Series will feature a 10-point match tiebreak, should those matches go to a decider.
There will be no such concessions for the men on the ATP tour.
In the men’s tournaments, former Open champion Stan Wawrinka and Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas will be fresh out of isolation, playing at the Murray River Open and ATP Cup respectively.
Despite the delay, Friday’s matches will take place under a considerable cloud that’s not COVID-related. Up to 25 millimetres of rain is forecast in Melbourne on Friday, with little to suggest the weather system will pass until early on Saturday.
Matches on courts without a roof will likely have to be moved.