'Madness': Australian Open call branded a 'disaster waiting to happen'

Seen here, 2020 Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and runner-up Dominic Thiem.
The ATP has confirmed the Australian Open will get underway on February 8. Pic: Getty

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

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.

Pictured here, 2020 Australian Open finalists Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem.
Novak Djokovic will aim to defend the 2020 Australian Open title he won against Dominic Thiem. Pic: Getty

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.

with AAP