Australian Open 2021: Six tournaments in one week as tennis players start Grand Slam preparations
Preparations for the Australian Open are set to ramp up next week with six ATP and WTA tournaments played across one week in Melbourne. With a newly-added event for players who have been in two-week quarantine, every player will be looking to get some time on court ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year, which begins on February 8.
Women's world number three tennis player Naomi Osaka of Japan uses a video camera as she returns with teammates to her hotel after a practice session in Adelaide on January 18, 2021, one of the locations where players have quarantined for two weeks
Starting on January 31, there will be six tournaments held ahead of the Australian Open.
There are two ATP 250 events starting on February 1 – Melbourne 1 and Melbourne 2, or the Murray River Open and Great Ocean Road Open – and three WTA 500 events, the Gippsland Trophy, Yarra Valley Classic and the Grampians Trophy, all taking place at Melbourne Park, the venue for the Australian Open.
The Gippsland Trophy and Yarra Valley Classic start on January 31 while the Grampians Trophy is a newly-added event that will run from February 3-7 and will be restricted to players who have been in hotel quarantine and unable to practise. It will be limited to 28 singles players while the other two WTA events will have 54 singles players in each main draw, as well as 28 doubles teams apiece.
"This revised schedule comprised of three WTA 500 events in the week leading into the upcoming Australian Open will allow for our athletes coming out of the respected quarantine period to properly focus on their preparation in a return to competition," said WTA CEO Steve Simon.
The Murray River Open, the Great Ocean Road Open and the ATP Cup have been moved back by 24 hours to give players more time to practise and prepare.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley says that for the 72 players coming out of 14-day hotel quarantine they will also “prioritise them for things like practice sessions, gym and ice baths.”
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The Gippsland Trophy and Yarra Valley Classic will feature most of the world’s top 50 women, including world No 1 Ashleigh Barty, defending Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.
The Grampians Trophy will include players who have been quarantine like Bianca Andreescu, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber, Sloane Stephens and Heather Watson.
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On the ATP side, most of the top players will be trying to lead their countries to victory in the ATP Cup. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will be involved in the event and only David Goffin and Roger Federer will not be playing from the top 15 in the world.
But there is plenty of other star power at the other ATP events, with Nick Kyrgios making his return at the Murray River Open alongside Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov and Dan Evans. World No 16 David Goffin and Karen Khachanov will headline the Great Ocean Road Open.
The two events have seen their singles draws increased from 48 to 56 and there will be no qualifying. The players who have been in two-week quarantine will most likely play their first matches on Wednesday to give them more preparation time.
Why so much tennis in one week?
Because everybody wants to get in the best shape ahead of the Australian Open.
Some players have competed in tournaments this year before travelling to Australia but that was nearly two weeks ago and their movements in Melbourne have been restricted due to quarantine rules.
Część tenisistów czeka na Australian Open przebywając na kwarantannie
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There are 72 players in a strict two-week quarantine who have not been allowed out of their rooms while others have been allowed out for five days to practise and train in the gym.
Whether it’s enough preparation time for the players who have been confined to their rooms remains to be seen, with world No 72 Sorana Cirstea saying she “would need at least three weeks in order to be in decent form again and compete at a high level”.
Is the Australian Open still starting on time?
Yes, and that seems highly unlikely to change, barring further developments.
Tiley ruled out delaying the February 8 start date when the planes arrived in Melbourne and it was revealed that 72 players would have to quarantine for two weeks in their hotel rooms.
Even if preparations might not seem entirely fair for every player, the Grand Slam looks set to go ahead as planned.