The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is set to start its 2021 season outside Australia in the first week of January.
The move is aimed at enabling players to head straight into Melbourne and observe mandatory quarantine ahead of the Australian Open, Steve Simon, chief of the WTA, told news agency Reuters.
Though not official, February 8 has reportedly been locked as the start date of the Australian Open.
There have been logistical worries around the tune-up event to the year’s first Major that are generally staged in Australia and kick off the WTA season.
With state borders closed till January in the wake of a spike in Covid cases, there were fears that those playing the WTA event may get stranded on account border restrictions and may not be able to reach Melbourne in time for the Major.
Hence, the move to take the event out of Australia addresses these fears in a manner that’s acceptable to all.
“We’re looking right at now at, hopefully, close to finalizing in the next week or so the ability to stage some events in the week of January 4 to start the year,” Simon said.
However, he stopped short of spelling out where the WTA season will start.
It’s quite likely that the Tour won’t start in either China or New Zealand, as both countries currently have strict lockdown measures in place.
Both the WTA and ATP kick off their seasons in Australia. This year, the women’s season opened in Brisbane.
The governing bodies of men’s and women’s tennis would bring out their Tour calendars once the dates of the Australian Open are officially announced.
Though the government of Victoria, the host state, is still believed to be in talks with the ATP and WTA on the quarantine and traveling rules for the Major, Simon said he was hopeful that the Australian Open would happen, though, not as scheduled.
“The Australian Open, we’re expecting it to happen,” the WTA chief said.
But he did concede that there are challenges. “Obviously, the Australian Open will come with a quarantine period to enter Australia so it does create challenges around the month of January,” Simon said.
However, he said plans are in the works to ensure that the WTA season isn’t disrupted.
“I think we’re again getting to a good place and we’ll be able to start the year and then transition into Australia and then have a great year,” Simon said.
With doubts around the quarantine rules for the Major, many players, including men’s defending champion Novak Djokovic, have yet to confirm participation for the Australian Open.