Australian Open Projects Record Loss of $78 Million in 2021 Due to COVID-19

Jenna CiccotelliAnalyst IFebruary 19, 2021

Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Russia's Aslan Karatsev play their semifinal match on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)
Hamish Blair/Associated Press

The Australian Open is projecting it will incur a $78 million loss by the time the tournament ends, tournament director Craig Tilley said (h/t Jake Michaels of ESPN). 

In addition to a lower than usual amount of fans in the stands amid the COVID-19 pandemic—which was limited further due to a sudden five-day lockdown in the midst of the tournament—Tennis Australia was responsible for funding other coronavirus-related measures that were unique to the tournament. 

"We have AU$80 million in reserve and we will exhaust that and we will take anywhere from a AU$40 to 60 million loan," Tilley said. "It's a big loss, but we haven't finalized the number yet. We've still got to see what our receipts are."

Among the other financial responsibilities incurred by Tennis Australia included a "hard quarantine" that players were ordered under upon their arrival in the country ahead of the tournament. 

Fans were allowed to return to the courts Thursday after an influx of COVID-19 cases in Victoria snapped the state into a lockdown. The order put Victoria under Stage 4 restrictions, which prohibited people from leaving their homes unless they were going to work, grocery shop, give or receive medical care or exercise. 

Tennis matches continued, but the crowds of 30,000 were reduced to zero. Through the first 10 days of play, 98,512 fans had attended the tournament, compared to 650,138 in the same time span last year, according to Michaels

More than 100,000 tickets had to be refunded. 

But amidst all the restrictions is hope: According to Michaels, only one player contracted the virus while in Melbourne, and there is no community transmission that has been traced back to the tournament. 

"We said all along that it's important to do this because we have to have a platform to grow for 2022," Tiley said. "Australia's now got a playbook that we can share with the rest of the world."