The governing body in men's tennis has announced the Australian Open will start on February 8, three weeks later than planned.
While Tennis Australia and the Victorian and Australian governments are yet to confirm, the ATP on Thursday revealed its revised 2021 calendar with the Melbourne Park grand slam front and centre of pandemic-forced shake-up.
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The opening week of the new season is set to kick off in Florida with the ATP 250 Delray Beach Open, alongside a new ATP 250 hard court event in Antalya, Turkey.
The ATP said men's qualifying for the season's first major was being moved to Doha, Qatar, from January 10-13.
That will be followed by a period of about two and a half weeks set aside for travel to Melbourne and a 14-day quarantine period for players and their coaches or other support staff.
A 12-team ATP Cup, the relocated Adelaide International and an additional men's tournament will be held in Melbourne to give players a chance to prepare for the Open.
The ATP said the season would start with a tournament beginning in the first week of January in Delray Beach, Florida.
That event was contested in February this year, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
There also will be an early January tournament in Antalya, Turkey.
While news that the Australian Open is set to go ahead has been embraced by many tennis fans, there are concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19 from players travelling to Australia from countries where cases are more prevalent.
Many Victorians had previously raised such concerns, even before the ATP’s confirmation of the start date on Thursday.
Mixed response to ATP announcement
So The ATP announces the first two tournaments are in Turkey and The USA. The worst places to be right now. Then some of these players fly to relatively Covid - free Australia. This is a disaster for Australia waiting to happen. Turkey and The US. Who greenlighted this?
— Sir Anthony (@antzplace66) December 17, 2020
It's madness holding the Australian Open qualify in Doha where until last month had the highest amount of COVID-19 cases in the world per population.
— Kevin Pollard (@football_roos) December 17, 2020
I agree, holding it there wouldn’t be my call especially for Aussies going over
— Val Febbo (@VFebbo96) December 17, 2020
— Citizen (@Coburgist) December 6, 2020
@DanielAndrewsMP DISASTER written all over this Australian Open. Put the vote to Victorians and see if they want the risk of 2000 foreigners coming here for a crappy tennis tournament
— Delta (@tondoblue) December 2, 2020
Great News for Tennis fans.@AustralianOpen dates confirmed.
It will be held between 8-21 feb.
Qualification event to be played in #Doha 10-13 Jan
And @ATPCup to be held in Melbourne from 1-5 feb..
So #AustralianOpen which is usually held in January delayed by atleast 3 weeks pic.twitter.com/FCktX9R4Hc
— ishan (@imishan12) December 17, 2020
Wouldn't be setting foot in the place. Bound to be breaches. Thanks but no thanks
— Lotus (@lotus2955) December 17, 2020
— Samuel Begg - Tennis (@samuelbegg) December 17, 2020
More ATP Tour dates to be released seperately
The ATP says more calendar plans for later weeks will be announced separately.
Other tournaments that will not take place next year include the New York Open and an event in Auckland, New Zealand.
The ATP is looking for new dates for the Rio Open, which was supposed to begin February 17 but now conflicts with the two-week Australian Open main draw.
As with other sports, tennis was disrupted this year because of the COVID-19 outbreak, including several months with no competition, the postponement of the French Open's start from May to September, and the cancellation of Wimbledon for the first time since World War II.
After months of sensitive negotiations with health officials, Tennis Australia said it hoped to formalise the Open start dates later on Thursday.