The Australian Open could consider cancelling qualifying in a bid to reduce delays, according to the Melbourne Age.
Tennis Australia has been seeking permission from the state government of Victoria to bring players and their teams into the country, where there are strict restrictions on entry and limits on hotel capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Victoria government has already pushed the date back by at least two weeks, potentially delaying the start of the tournament.
Among the issues appears to be the numbers involved—as many as 2,500 would be arriving, according to previous figures cited by Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley. Removing the qualifying event, as was done at the US Open, would reduce that amount.
That would allow players to enter sooner and help the event begin in the fourth week of January, limiting the delay to one week. There has been speculation that it could be pushed back further, but The Melbourne Age said that rights holder Channel Nine prefers the tournament played around its usual slot in the schedule.
The ATP and WTA tours are likely to oppose the cancellation of qualifying events, which will affect already hard-hit lower-ranked players, but at the same time, do not want the Grand Slam to run into other scheduled tour events.
The junior tournaments have already been cancelled.
Tennis Australia has also asked the Victoria government to allow players to train during their required two-week quarantine and potentially even compete under special safety protocols, something the government is considering but has not approved. It would involve spending AU$33 million on creating a bubble for players and teams, according to Tennis Australia.
The schedule of warm-up events is still not decided, but all have provisionally been moved to Melbourne and will likely be organized in some sort of reduced form. A decision is also expected on whether crowds will be allowed.