Sponsors have been stepping up on the ATP Tour side to support last-minute, one-year licenses for ATP Tour events as the pandemic has wrought havoc with the schedule.
And that held true for this week’s event in Antalya, Turkey.
The Turks love tennis. They love hosting events, too. And there is money there. The only problem has been that for the most part, those tournaments haven’t been supported well enough.
When last we saw the Antalya Open, it was a grass-court event that was part of the extended pre-Wimbledon swing.
It was held from 2017-2019 at a resort called the Kaya Palazzo Golf Resort, about six miles down the road from the site of this year’s hard-court event.
They have 10 clay courts at that resort; they built seven grass courts under the supervision of the All-England Club, from scratch.
But this tournament will be … basic.
Still, three top-20 players are taking part: Matteo Berrettini, David Goffin and Fabio Fognini. Also playing is Alex de Minaur.
Just four courts on site
The Google Earth images are a few years old. So it appears, from recent photos posted by the tournament on its Instagram account, that they’ve resurfaced from that 1990s rust-colour hard court style.
But the logistical problem remains: there are four courts on the site.
And, from the look of it and what we hear, they’re just not set up for anything but people playing tennis on them.
The fact that there will not be fans means that building temporary stands is unnecessary.
But we’re told it’s the reason the tournament will not be available for broadcast – either on Tennis Channel or on TennisTV.com.
There’s just no space to adequately equip the courts to a reasonable broadcast standard. (And, no, don’t bring your “We don’t care, just stick an iPhone up on the chain-link fence and press ‘Play’ ” stuff here).
It appears there are eight courts next door at the Belconti Resort Otel, if they’re hard up.
A late curve from the Turks
A few days ago, the Turkish COVID-19 authorities dropped an extra little extra kick into an already spicy challenge.
In addition to requiring a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure, the Turks added some additional restrictions for travellers from certain countries: anyone who’s been in Denmark, South Africa or the U.K. in the last 10 days is required to bring the negative test.
They also are required to quarantine for seven days until a second test, if negative, releases them.
There don’t seem to be any exceptions for the athletes, as these guidelines are included in the tournament’s detail sheet.
Two Brits, Jan Choinski and Lloyd Glasspool, were entered. But they were too far down the list for it to matter.
It may have affected South Africay Lloyd Harris, who pulled out of the event. Denmark’s Frederic Nielsen appears to still be on the list in doubles.
Many withdrawals leading up to Antalya
These opening-week tournaments (the other being in Delray Beach, Fla.) may have seemed a great idea in theory for the ATP Tour players.
But in practice, a lot of them have bailed out.
The original main draw cutoff of No. 93 ended up outside the top 260.
Among them: Borna Coric, Benoit Paire, Jannik Sinner and Marco Cecchinato,
Pavel Kotov, originally 24th alternate, is now the second seed in the qualifying.
And 20-year-old Petros Tsitsipas, the younger brother of Stefano and outside the top 1000 in the world in singles at the deadline, squeezed into the qualifying on his own ranking.
If there was concern about how a positive COVID test could derail the Australian swing, it was borne out by what happened to Dutch doubles player Matwe Middelkoop.
An early positive test knocks out Middelkoop
And then, on Monday, another little bit of bad news.
Doubles specialist Matwe Middelkoop tested positive Monday, in Turkey. So he’ll have to quarantine there, and will miss the tournament.
His bigger concern, understandably, is missing the Australian Open.
My schedule for the upcoming weeks, but.. This morning I got tested positive for COVID-19 here in Turkey 😖 Meaning that I can’t play the Antalya Open & that I have to go in quarantine.. Just hope that I’m recovered on time to be able to play in Australia! 🇦🇺 Keep you posted! pic.twitter.com/uiaGYE0djI— Matwe Middelkoop (@Mside83) January 4, 2021
Tight timing for Australia
A 14-day quarantine would bring him to Jan. 18. That’s after the dates that the players are required to be in Australia to begin their 14-day quasi-quarantine there. And he would miss whatever charter flights are leaving from Dubai. So it gets complicated.
Notably, the positive test, with the rules in place, meant that he would have had a test before he left the Netherlands that was negative. And then, upon arrival in Turkey, tested positive.
A few days ago, he posted a (maskless) photo with his parents having a New Year’s dinner. And 10 days before that, he won the Dutch national championships with partner Sander Arends (again, a maskless pic).
It’s too soon to tell if others in his orbit also tested positive. Or if, perhaps, he caught it on the journey.
Arends, with whom Middelkoop was supposed to play in Antalya, also is affected by his withdrawal.
Assuming he is negative, he could technically sign in with another partner on site.