As conditions improve in many areas of the world, and more people are vaccinated, the ATP Tour is planning to significantly ease restrictions at its tournaments.
And if players and/or support staff are fully vaccinated, there will be major advantages in terms of returning to somewhat normal tournament life.
The eased restrictions are set to begin with the Geneva and Lyon events, the week after Rome, and are subject to the approval of local authorities.
(This may be a crucial caveat).
The rules relaxation, Open Court has learned from documents forwarded Wednesday, will affect the tournaments that use antigen testing.
Antigen testing is less foolproof than PCR testing, but can produce results in 15 minutes).
At those tournaments, the players and other credentialed people will take an antigen test every two days, instead of a PCR test every four days.
And the consequences are significant.
Benoit Paire will approve.
Eating out, going to the beach!
Among the privileges that will be restored will be the ability of players to leave the designated “safe” areas at tournaments. They will even be allowed to eat off site (outdoors is recommended, but not mandatory).
And they can pick up their own takeout rather than having it delivered.
The players also will be allowed to go shopping, whether it’s for basics or non-basics.
They will be allowed to share their hotel rooms with non-credentialed individuals. And they no longer will be mandated to stay in the official tournament hotels.
The players can even … take an Uber, go to a public pool or beach and even … get a haircut at a local salon.
No hitting da clubs
The new relaxation of restrictions goes even further than that
Players still cannot, however, go to concerts, festivals, night clubs, bars and other public gatherings.
If you’re jabbed, you’re golden
Another major change will be for players or staff who have been completely vaccinated (one or two doses, depending on the vaccine).
Those people can apply to be exempted from COVID-19 testing.
There is a required 14-day period after the vaccination. But after that, the exemption will last six months.
Caveat: If there are high levels of COVID or variants that the vaccines don’t cover going forward, though, they might start testing again.
And the relaxed rules at tournaments don’t exempt the players from whatever testing is required to enter the country in which they are playing the tournament.
It also doesn’t exempt them from wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding crowds and all of the other ongoing COVID precautions.
I want to thank @SerbiaOpen2021 @atptour #DenisZivkovic @DjokerNole #djordjedjokovic and especially people of #Belgrade #Serbia for offering us the opportunity to take our vaccine! Today I got my first part of the #Pfizer vaccine. pic.twitter.com/8nI6tOxMZA— SvenTennis (@sventennis) April 24, 2021
COVID symptoms don’t mean automatic withdrawal
Another little wrinkle is that if a player is showing COVID-19 symptoms, but has a match coming up and the PCR test won’t come back in time, the player can have the less-reliable antigen test.
And if that’s negative, they will be allowed to play. Again, that’s if the antigen tests are available at that tournament.
Those tests will also allow players and staff who are deemed “close contacts” of a positive case to continue to do their jobs. They would be subject to more limited access to facilities. But as long as they test negative each day on the antigen test, they can still operate.
Grand Slams not covered
At this point, those relaxed rules do not apply to Roland Garros or Wimbledon.
Each of those Grand Slam tournaments have laid down pretty strict protocols for player movement and behaviour. And the ATP’s jurisdiction doesn’t extend to those events.
In both cases this year, those restrictions include the inability to rent private housing near the site (especially popular at Wimbledon).
And at Roland Garros, even players who actually live in the Boulogne-Billancourt area and can technically walk to work during the event will have to be housed in one of the official hotels.
That was also the case last fall, when the tournament was last held.