Australian Open 2021: Top 50 men and women scheduled for Melbourne in February
Defending and eight-time champ Novak Djokovic, and home favourite, world No1 Ash Barty, top entry lists
The details were long in the negotiating and announcing, but finally, the first Major of the year, the Australian Open in Melbourne, got the green light.
The complexity and delays in the arrangements have, of course, been caused by the ongoing global pandemic that decimated the 2020 tennis calendar. All the more so in Australia, which has been one of the most successful countries in getting the infection rate under some kind of control.
Naturally, the state of Victoria in particular had to lay down stringent parameters, including a compulsory two-week quarantine for all players and their limited teams, and that postponed the start date to February, with the qualifying events played almost a month before in the Middle East.
The schedule has also called for considerable flexibility in the tour calendars, with tournaments that have traditionally provided the vital preparation for the Australian Open abandoned in favour of a slew of events in Melbourne itself.
But the Australian showpiece promises ultimately to offer a full house of tennis stars—the entire top 50 and more in both the men’s and women’s rankings are on the start lists.
World No1 Novak Djokovic headlines the men’s competition, and will look to increase his record tally of eight Australian titles.
He will be joined by No2 Rafael Nadal, champion in 2009, six-time champion Roger Federer, who has not played a match since reaching the semis last year following double knee surgery—and has subsequently dropped to No5 in the ranks—plus 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka. Leading a charge of fast-rising young stars will be No3 Dominic Thiem, who won his first Major at the US Open this year, and Daniil Medvedev, who closed out 2020 at No4 after winning the Paris Masters and ATP Finals.
Also notable will be the return of Andy Murray, five-times runner-up in Australia, and attempting to make a renewed impression after his tearful exit in Melbourne in 2019 to undergo major hip surgery.
On the women’s side, home favourite and world No1 Ash Barty, who has not played since reaching the semis of last year’s Australian Open and Doha Premier, tops the list.
However, since she won her only Major at Roland Garros in 2019, she has seen three new Major champions crowned, Bianca Andreescu, Iga Swiatek and, in Melbourne at the start of 2020, Sofia Kenin. All will be strong challengers come February, as will fellow Major champions, No2 Simona Halep, No3 Naomi Osaka and No8 Petra Kvitova.
Stir into the pot the considerable presence of Serena Williams, aiming for her eighth Australian crown and a record 24th Major, plus another former champion, Victoria Azarenka, who burst back into form in the autumn to win Cincinnati and make the final of the US Open, and the women’s competition will make for compelling viewing.
And talking of viewing, the tournament will open its doors to spectators—a huge bonus to players used to crowd-deprived competition—though within carefully managed numbers and configurations.
Melbourne Park will have three zones, with each area located around one of the three main show-courts: Rod Laver, Margaret Court, and newly titled John Cain. Movement between the zones will not be permitted, which makes the Margaret Court Arena zone the most attractive prospect for the general tennis fan—it contains both the 1573 arena, show court 3, and 10 field courts. The Rod Laver zone? Just that—though of course, it is where most of the showpiece matches will happen.
With just 25 percent of its usual capacity, tickets have already sold fast, though visitors must buy a ‘fan pod’ of between 1 and 6 seats to ensure social distancing.
However, given the magnitude of the event going ahead at all—and with what looks like a full complement of players, give or take injuries before February—it will be a price worth paying.
2021 Australian Open timetable
Delray Beach Open [ATP, Delray Beach, Florida] [players include Raonic, Nishikori, Isner]
Antalya Open [ATP, Antalya, Turkey] [players include Berrettini, Goffin, Fognini, Coric]
Abu Dhabi Open [WTA] [players include Kenin, Svitolina, Pliskova, Sabalenka]
Australian Open qualifying [ATP Doha, Qatar; WTA Dubai, UAE]
31 January-6 February
Melbourne 1 and 2 [ATP and WTA]
ATP Cup [Melbourne]