Australian Open as fair as possible: Tiley | Ralph Lauren

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Tournament boss Craig Tiley insists the Australian Open will be fair for all players despite differing preparations for the year’s first major.

Melbourne Park was buzzing on Saturday with all but 22 players out of hotel quarantine and readying themselves for the lead-in tournaments which get underway on Sunday.

The last batch, including Japanese star Kei Nishikori and French world No.28 Benoit Paire, can exit the hotels at 11.59 on Saturday night.

Two WTA tournaments kick off official proceedings on Sunday although Australia’s world No.1 Ash Barty has a first-round bye.

Ajla Tomljanovic, ranked world No.69, takes on French No.53 Alize Cornet in round one with a second-round meeting with Naomi Osaka beckoning.

Eight other Australian women were given wildcards into the tournaments.

Tiley said the players who were in hard lockdown had been given “priority” with their schedules and access to training facilities.

He said with all players having at least nine days between quarantine and the start of the Open on February 8, the tournament would be as fair as it could be.

“There have been a lot of questions about a fair playing field – some players have had to quarantine, some have not,” Tiley said on Saturday.

“We’ve given nine days when coming out of quarantine to when they’ll really need to be playing.

“It’s not going to be perfectly ideal, but it’s enough time to be as ready as you possibly can be.

“No different to inclement weather or someone being a bit sick and having to take a few days off.”

As contractors put the finishing touches on Melbourne Park, Victorian sports minister Martin Pakula said crowds would be at about 50 per cent of previous years, with 390,000 people expected over the two weeks.

There will be 30,000 allowed through the gates each day for the first eight days, which will be reduced in the finals to crowds of 12,500 during the day session and 12,500 during the night sessions.

“Rod Laver Arena will have incredible atmosphere, not that different to the atmosphere we’ve seen at all the Opens in the years past,” Pakula said.

“It will not be the same but it will be the most significant international event with crowds that the world has seen in many, many months.”

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