The start of next year’s tennis season will see some heavy disruptions as many countries continue to battle with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the Australian Open now set to commence on 8th February, we are anticipating the tournament’s 3-week postponement to place a significant strain on next years tournament schedule.
One tournament that has already been disrupted because of the Australian Open was the Open BLS De Limoges which was in fact due to start today.
Limoges was cancelled back in October after concerns arose that players would choose to fly out to Melbourne in mid-December to complete a 14-day quarantine that would allow them to compete in the Australian Open.
Following the Australian Open’s postponement, speculation has now arisen over when tour events usually held in February will now take place. These events include the St. Petersburg Open, the ATP 500 events in Rotterdam and Rio de Janerio, and the Dubai Championships and the Qatar Open.
It’s also looking likely that the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells will be postponed for the second year in a row as Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim reported last week on Twitter.
In 2020 @BNPPARIBASOPEN cancelled (wisely, courageously) on the eve of the event. Announcement of the 2021 cancellation is, I hear, coming imminently, three months in advance….both tours working to adjust schedule and minimize the impact…— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) December 6, 2020
Although, we are expecting some normality to return in 2021 as the tours now have a better understanding of the disruptions the pandemic can cause and can plan to ahead to overcome those issues accordingly.
“We have the foresight now to know what we’re dealing with,” WTA tour chief Steve Simon told Reuters last week. “Contingency planning can be in place, things that we didn’t have the advantage of in 2020.”
After the curtailment of the season in March, the coronavirus caught the WTA and the ATP off-guard, causing the tours to cancel half of this year’s tournaments in a move that cost them dearly in revenue.
Moving forward, the WTA now have a variety of contingencies in place that will help them host what might hopefully be an almost full season.
“For 2021 we’re planning our full calendar, our full complement of events which usually will fluctuate between 53 and 55 events a year.”
One such foresight was last week’s unification of the WTA and ATP Tour schedules. This new arrangement could go a long way in helping tour operators fulfil next year’s tournament roster with both tours perhaps being able to adjoin to attend similar events.Embed from Getty Images
There’s also the possibility that players could soon be required to be vaccinated to compete. This would mean players could enter countries without bringing the virus with them, an issue that has recently been debated by Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government.
With the vaccine set to be readily available by March next year, it may be a little too soon for players to receive their jabs in time for the Australian Open, although it could bode good news for tournaments taking place later on in the year.
“I would hope that all the players would be willing to do that for the good of the sport — providing everything has proved to be safe,” Andy Murray stated back in November.
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the ATP and the ITF decide their position is going to be on that. But I’m confident that players would be into it, if it meant the tour going back to normality.”
One thing that has been confirmed is that the first WTA 500 tournament of 2021 will take place in Abu Dhabi between the 5th and 13th of January.
The tournament in Abu Dhabi will immediately be followed by the Australian Open qualifiers which will now be hosted outside of Australia, for the first time in the history of the event, in Dubai.
Life after COVID still seems a long way off, although it looks like 2021 will take us a step closer to some normality.
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