The Australian Open starts this Monday (Sunday night to Monday in France). A first Grand Slam of the season, special in many respects, and the preparation of which has not been easy. Despite the health constraints, the skepticism of the local population and a great fear a few days before the kick-off, the organizers have succeeded in their daring bet. Ready? Play!
What is the health protocol?
The 1,200 or so accredited people from the rest of the world in specially chartered charter flights have already done the hard part. The majority of the players were subjected to a fortnight with five hours of outing per day for tennis and physical training. Seventy-two unlucky people, declared a contact case, had to remain cloistered for two weeks in their hotel room.
Positive for Covid-19 at the start of her stay, the Spanish Paula Badosa, she spent 21 days in isolation. 507 people, including 160 players who have resided at the Grand Hyatt were also forced to undergo a new test Thursday after the discovery of a positive employee, the first case in 28 days.
Although all the feedback has been negative, the rules for wearing a mask have been tightened. But ball collectors, for example, will not wear one. However, under no circumstances should they touch the participants’ towels.
Will there be spectators?
Forgotten the cancellation of Wimbledon, the closed door of the US Open and the starving assistance (1000 people per day) of Roland Garros. In total, more than 390,000 spectators will walk the alleys of Melbourne Park during the fortnight. Or half of the public welcomed in 2020. A nice tour de force. “The site will be an extremely safe place,” said Greg Tiley, tournament director. There are controls, contact tracing, physical distancing… ”
30,000 daily fans, divided into three distinct areas, will crowd the first eight days. The gauge will then be reduced to 25,000 from the quarter-finals. Martin Pakula, Minister of Sports of the State of Victoria, expects “an incredible atmosphere, not so different from that seen on all the Opens of recent years”. In any case, the exhibition last weekend in Adelaide in front of more than 4000 fans set the tone. Like other sports, tennis does not have the same flavor when surrounded by popular fervor …
Will Djokovic win his ninth title in Melbourne?
In the heat of the austral summer, the Serbian is the favorite to win his ninth title in Melbourne and his 18th Grand Slam. It even looks like a must for the world No.1, 33, who is three Majors behind Nadal and Federer (absent and who will make his comeback in March) and will see the competition of the young guard sharpen in the over the months.
The boss must also forget a painful end of the season with a disqualification at the US Open and a correction inflicted by Nadal in the Roland-Garros final… Behind Djokovic, Nadal (who may become the first player of the Open era to win at least twice the four Grand Slams but seems in delicacy with his back), Thiem (beaten in the final in five sets by the Djoker last year), Medvedev, Zverev or Tsitsipas appear to be solid outsiders. To reach the final, Djokovic will have to rule out Zverev and Thiem, Nadal to do the same with Tsitsipas and Medvedev. Place your bets…
Will we see a patch of blue sky?
French side, where Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille forfeited, nine boys (Gaël Monfils, Benoît Paire, Adrian Mannarino, Ugo Humbert, Gilles Simon, Jérémy Chardy, Corentin Moutet, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Quentin Halys) and six girls (Fiona Ferro, Caroline Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic, Alizé Cornet, Clara Burel and Chloé Paquet) will be on the starting line. All eyes will be on Monfils, which is starting its collaboration with the Austrian tandem Bresnik / Ruckelshausen.
It remains to be seen whether the Parisian, world No. 11, will have already assimilated the orientations of his new coaches. The tricolor n ° 1 himself considers the big inaugural meeting of the year as a stage where “it does not matter to lose in the first round” … For the others, the task goes from difficult to almost insurmountable, like Chardy and Simon, launched from the start against Djokovic and Tsitsipas…
Mission impossible for Serena?
Crowned in Melbourne in 2019 and winner of the last US Open, Naomi Osaka looks like a scarecrow … with a terrible course. The Japanese will undoubtedly have to pin Muguruza, Andreescu, Kvitova and Halep before a possible final against defending champion Sofia Kenin or Australian world number 1 Ashleigh Barty.
As with each of its outings, the other attraction is called Serena Williams. At 39, the American is still chasing a 24th Grand Slam title which would make her the equal of Margaret Court. Since his 23rd coronation four years ago in Melbourne, the protected Patrick Mouratoglou, who complains about his right shoulder, has missed the boat four times in the final. Given the density of the painting, he will have to get that far already …
Article original de: www.leparisien.fr