Australian Open 2021: Melbourne schedule revised to help locked-down players
Six tournaments in one week; WTA adds third 500 event; ATP delays start dates
The already new-look start to the Australian Open, which saw the first Major of the year delayed by three weeks and a swathe of new events slotted into Melbourne Park, has been revised to help the 72 players enduring a 14-day quarantine lockdown.
All the players flying into Australia in mid January aboard 15 charter flights were prepared for two weeks of quarantine that would permit five hours a day outside their hotel rooms for bubbled practice and training, but the unfortunates who found themselves on flights with a COVID-positive passenger—72 players and team members—faced stricter regulations. They have not been allowed outside their hotel room door for the entire 14 days.
Naturally, that has been causing serious concern about maintaining match fitness once released from lockdown. In theory, they would be expected to hit the ground running against colleagues who had enjoyed daily court-time and training sessions—far from a level playing field.
Now the Tennis Australia team has revised the original schedule to help ease the locked-down 72 into competitive tennis.
The three men’s events—the ATP Cup and two 250s—have been delayed by a day, with the Murray River Open and Great Ocean Road Open each increasing their draws from 48 to 56.
On the women’s side, a third WTA500 event has been added to the Melbourne schedule alongside the Gippsland Trophy and Yarra Valley Classic, though the new Grampians Trophy will not begin until Wednesday 3 February with a 28-woman draw. The other two will have their draws reduced from 64 to 54 apiece.
It makes for a packed week in Melbourne Park comprising six overlapping tournaments that aim to give every player a competitive opportunity between quarantine and the opening day of the Australian Open on Monday 8 February.
The Australian Open Tournament Director, Craig Tiley, said:
“This has been a particularly challenging time for the athletes in hard lockdown and we, along with the WTA and ATP, aim to do everything we can to help.
“These changes to the lead-in events have been made to give the 72 players a little bit of extra time to help them prepare. We also will prioritise them for things like practice sessions, gym and ice baths.”
31 January-6 February
Gippsland Trophy [WTA500; 54 draw]
Yarra Valley Classic [WTA500; 54 draw]
Great Ocean Road Open [ATP250; 56 draw]
Murray River Open [ATP250; 56 draw]
ATP Cup [12 ATP teams]
Grampians Trophy [WTA500; 28 draw]
A Day at the Drive [exhibition event]
1pm: Novak Djokovic vs Jannik Sinner; Serena Williams vs Naomi Osaka
7pm Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem; Ash Barty vs Simona Halep
A one tiebreak bonus set will close the afternoon session: Venus Williams vs Irina-Camelia Begu