The ATP Tour jumped the gun a little by rolling out its schedule for the first part of the 2021 season on Wednesday.
Because the 2021 Australian Open will only be held if the Victorian government gives the go-ahead.
But early on Saturday afternoon in Melbourne, the Herald Sun confirmed the dates – Feb. 8-21 – and the tournament is a go.
The Australian Open confirmation came from Acting Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Jaclyn Symes.
“Melbourne is the home of the biggest sporting events and it’s fantastic that arrangements have been settled for Melbourne Park in February. The 2021 Open will look a bit different. And that’s necessary to ensure the safety of everyone, from players and ballkids and the wider community,” Symes said, as reported in the Herald Sun.
Tennis Australia confirms Saturday afternoon
A press conference with tournament director Craig Tiley was be streamed on Facebook just after 2 p.m. Saturday. There were some technical glitches, but it finally got going.
During the Facebook conference, Tiley said the tournament had a commitment from “every player in the world”. And he made like it was likely that Roger Federer would be among them.
Of course, that would be more of a surprise than a likelihood.
“It’s the beginning of the season so anything can happen with that entry list. But the commitment is there,” he said. “I think all the players – Serena, I know, is particularly excited. Rafa and Roger, they’re both on 20 (major titles). Novak Djokovic has dominated the play here at Melbourne Park.”
Tiley also said that he hoped Tennis Australia would be able to announce “additional events following the Australian Open”.
The ATP Tour is working on having the indoor European swing and the South American swing in that window. So we’ll see what happens.
Tennis Australia statement from Tiley
“This will be an historic Australian Open on so many levels. For the first time in more than 100 years the Australian Open will start in February and we look forward to offering the players what we believe will be one of their best playing experiences in 2021.
“From the outset, ensuring players have the best possible preparation for the Australian Open, while at all times protecting the precious COVID-free environment that the Victorian community has built through incredible sacrifice and hard work over the past six months, has been paramount.
“It has taken eight months of working alongside government authorities, here in Victoria, nationally and interstate, to give us the opportunity to present an Australian Open that will play a major role in both the economic and psychological reinvigoration and rejuvenation of Melbourne and Victoria.”
Moments later, the WTA Tour weighs in
(Of course, if you read Open Court, you already knew all this days ago).
No news yet on ticket prices or fan numbers
What’s still not known is what the safety plan will look like at Melbourne Park. Melbourne’s Channel 9 says the tournament will take place at 50 per cent capacity for fans.
But tickets will go on sale on Wednesday, Dec. 23 at noon, Melbourne time.
Government issues late Friday statement
All of this furious action comes in the wake of the Victorian government issuing a statement Friday evening (talk about your Friday news dump!)
The Sydney Morning Herald led with the news Saturday that the Australian Open has extended its deal with Melbourne Park another three years – to … 2039. (Where else would it go, really?)
And then it confirmed the tournament is a go.
It says, in part:
Quarantine plans have been endorsed by the Chief Health Officer and the Andrews Labor Government will work with Tennis Australia to finalise a COVIDSafe Plan that ensures the safety of all parties. Rigorous infection prevention and control measures will be central to these arrangements.”
The title of the release is “Public Health Top Priority As Open Confirmed For February.”