The Australian Open was postponed Thursday to February 8 due to coronavirus concerns, with a series of preparatory events announced by the ATP Tour in Melbourne after players completed 14 days of quarantine.
The confirmation came after lengthy negotiations with Tennis Australia and Victoria state authorities in Melbourne, which only emerged from a multi-month lockdown in October following a second wave of Covid cases. 19.
Originally scheduled for Jan. 18, players will now arrive in Australia from Jan. 15 to serve two weeks of quarantine, many of which come from countries where the pandemic is still raging.
Earlier reports said they would have to stay in designated hotels, but would be allowed to train and exercise for up to five hours a day, commuting between their accommodation and Melbourne Park.
There was no immediate confirmation from Tennis Australia.
The ATP said the men’s Grand Slam qualifiers will be held Jan.10-13 in Doha, before players and support staff travel to Australia.
It remains to be confirmed where the women will play their qualifications.
A lightened 12-team ATP Cup, the relocated Adelaide International and an ATP 250 tournament will all be held in Melbourne ahead of the Slam which is now scheduled for February 8-21.
“The reconfigured schedule for the start of the 2021 season represents a huge collaborative effort across tennis, under difficult circumstances,” said ATP President Andrea Gaudenzi.
“With the support of our tournament, our member players, our partners and Tennis Australia, we were able to adapt and create an exciting start to the season.
“Health and safety will remain paramount as we face the challenges ahead, and I would like to thank everyone involved for their commitment to finding solutions to kick off our 2021 season.”
Serbian Novak Djokovic will aim for a ninth Australian Open title after defeating Austria’s Dominic Thiem in a titanic five-set battle earlier this year.
American Sofia Kenin is set to defend her first women’s Grand Slam crown after beating Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in three sets.
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley was hoping Melbourne Park crowds would be between 25% and 50% of normal capacity.
But with the coronavirus now under control in Australia, their hopes could be raised if there were no more community transmissions of Covid-19.
The men’s season kicks off with the ATP 250 Delray Beach Open alongside a new one-year ATP 250 event in Antalya, Turkey, before heading to Doha for the Australian Open qualifiers.
ATP events that have not happened in 2021 due to the pandemic include the ASB Classic in Auckland and the New York Open, while the Maharashtra Open in India is under a cloud.
The Rio Open will not take place as originally planned, with ATP indicating that other dates are being considered.
© 2020 AFP