Vic feared losing Aust Open if cancelled

Premier Daniel Andrews says Australia may have lost the Open forever if it didn't hold it in 2021, with other countries clamouring to host the grand slam.

Victorian Premier DANIEL ANDREWS.
Victorian Premier DANIEL ANDREWS. Picture: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

Victoria feared losing its prized grand slam tournament if it didn't host the Australian Open in 2021, says premier Daniel Andrews.

The state government has been criticised for holding the tournament amid a pandemic, with 1200 international players and officials given an exemption to fly into Melbourne from Thursday night to Saturday morning.

But Andrews said other countries would have pounced on the billion-dollar tournament with Melbourne risking losing hosting rights all together, which would be a massive financial blow to the economy.

He used Japan as an example, with their Olympic tennis complex in Tokyo ready and waiting after the delay of the 2020 Games.

The event is the richest and biggest on the Australian sporting calendar.

"If the Australian Open does not happen in Melbourne, it will happen somewhere else," Andrews said on Thursday.

"It will happen in Japan, it will happen in China, it will happen in Singapore.

"The real risk then is, it doesn't come back.

"Just focus on the future of this event - not just this year - but what not having this event this year may well mean.

"There are so many cities around the world that would do anything to have one of those grand slam events anchored in their city.

"Many ... might go ahead and build a brand-new facility from scratch to do it.

"You don't invite that."

Andrews said the event supported more than a quarter of a million Victorian jobs.

He added the government and taxpayers needed a return on the $1.5 billion invested in building the Melbourne Park facility over a 10-year period.

"This event is very important to our city and our state," Andrews said.

"On that basis, it is worth going to these extraordinary steps to make sure it can happen, but in a safe way."

Officially branded as the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific, Melbourne has hosting rights until 2039 but remains vulnerable from being poached by China.