Unanswered Questions Overshadows The Upcoming Return Of Tennis - UBITENNIS
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Unanswered Questions Overshadows The Upcoming Return Of Tennis

The sport finally has a return date, but much tougher obstacles could arise over the coming weeks.

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After four months of speculation the outlook of what professional tennis will look like during the remainder of this year was announced within an hour.

 

It started specifically at 15:00 UK time when the United States Tennis Association decided to broadcast an hour-long online press conference concerning the US Open. Which was given the go ahead yesterday by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. As UTSA CEO Mike Dowse and others spoke, the ATP and WTA decided that it would be a good time to publish their restructured 2020 schedules. Followed by the International Tennis Federation doing the same. On top of that, tournaments then issued their own press releases, including the French Open and their plans. Triggering an information overload for many.

The decision to publish all the information at once perhaps illustrates the complexity of tennis, which is governed by seven separate bodies – ATP, WTA, ITF and each of the Grand Slams. But now the information is out in the open, some aspects are still not crystal clear.

In North America the USTA is confident of making this year’s US Open a success amid the unfamiliar circumstances they are in. Even though their Net Income will be down by as much as 80% compared to 12 months ago. Nevertheless, with the help of their reserves and the relocation of the Cincinnati event to New York, organizers still believe hosting the event is financially viable.

“It’s the right decision for tennis,” said USTA chief executive officer Dowse. “Our fans told us unequivocally they’re excited to see the best players in the world.”

There are still doubts about who may choose to skip New York altogether due to concerns over the COVID-19 restrictions they have in place. Novak Djokovic has previously said he is considering an option where he focuses solely on the European clay-court swing. Meanwhile, Simona Halep is also undecided.

“Given the conditions outlined in the US Open this morning, as of today I do not currently plan to play in NYC,” Halep said in a press release issued to Christopher Clarey from The New York Times.
“However, as we know, this situation is fluid and the conditions may change and improve before the entry deadline in July.’
“I would like to underline that my decision is not set in stone.” She added.

The USTA have previously stated that it is up to players if they want to play at their premier event, but do they have an alternative option? On the men’s tour Kitzburl takes place during the second week of the US Open. Therefore, if somebody like Djokovic would stay in Europe, he could play there. However, this will not be the case.

In a somewhat unexpected decision, the ATP has said that all top-10 players will be ineligible to play in Austria unless they take part in the US Open. A move that somehow contradicts the motion of respecting a player’s right to play at the grand slam or not. The WTA haven’t said if this will also be the case for the Istanbul Open, which takes place during the same week as Kitzbuhel.

It is clear that emotions are high under the current circumstances. As highlighted by Nick Kyrgios and his response to a tweet from the ATP where he describes CEO Andrea Gaudenzi as a ‘potato.’ That comment isn’t as unusual as it sounds, he also called an umpire of one his matches last year the same word.

“Cheers mate, you’ve really looked after the players during this time. Seriously f**k me, how about you have a collaborative effort with us, potato,” he wrote.

Travelling restrictions

World No.2 Rafael Nadal had previously said the Tour shouldn’t go ahead unless everybody is able to freely travel. Something that isn’t the case at present. Ivan Tricario is the editor of ubitennis.es and is based in Argentina. In his country journalists can’t travel internationally until September 13th when their border will potentially reopen. It is even more complicated for the players.

“There are problems for Argentine tennis players to go to the US Open. No one knows how they will do it,” he said via email. “There are private flights but they are very expensive. Some players are not in a position to face it, especially doubles players. Commercial flights would start in mid September.’
“If they access private flights they could only return to Argentina when the pandemic ends.”

Argentina has four top 100 ATP players in singles and seven in the doubles.

Perhaps one solution to help any player that may be in such a situation is to use the fund issued by the USTA. The organization has handed out $3.3 million each to both the ATP and WTA for them to use for what they believe is appropriate. The money is essentially unofficial compensation for the US Open scrapping the qualifying tournaments and reducing the size of their doubles draw. Hitting those who are less financially stable compared to the top players. But again, it is unknown as to what exactly will be done with this money and when.

The other health threat

Players will be delighted to be returning to the court, but how will their bodies cope after months away from the tour? Especially given the tight scheduling of top events with a good level of prize money and ranking points at stake. Within seven weeks (August 22nd – October 11th) there will be three Masters 1000 and two grand slam events.

These concerns are nothing new. In fact Milos Raonic was one of the first to speak about the issue two months ago during an interview with CNN.

“Four weeks in five (in September) … I think that will pose issues for players, and I think also because a transition to a different surface (from hard to clay courts) will be very quick,” he told CNN’s Christina Macfarlane.
“The thing that you really hope for is that it doesn’t create an uptick in injuries because that is quite tolling, quite a task.
“Am I happy that it is going to happen? Yes, I think so, to have a chance to play as many grand slams as possible in what is going to end up being a shortened season for us is a very important thing and I’m happy that a way is found to make it happen and hopefully we can get through to that point and be able to compete in those events.”

Ironically, with so many provisions being taken to minimise the risk of players catching COVID-19, it could be argued that injuries may pose a greater threat in some respects. Something that hasn’t been addressed too much by tennis authorities with their focus being on resuming the Tour as soon as possible.

The eagerly awaited return of tennis will undoubtedly be a boost for the sport which has suffered from the brunt of the global pandemic. There is now a start date, but clearly there is much more needed to be done over the coming weeks.

Grand Slam

Government Minister Sheds Light On Australian Open Schedule

A member of the Victorian Government has given a new update concerning the first Grand Slam of 2021.

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It is likely that the Australian Open will not be getting underway on its planned date of January 18th following recent comments by a government minister.

 

Negotiations between Tennis Australia and local officials are ongoing amid uncertainty over when the Grand Slam event will start. Last week plans for next year suffered a heavy blow after it was confirmed that players will not be allowed to enter the country in December as previously hoped. Instead they can enter from January 1st but will then have to go through a 14-day quarantine where they will not be allowed to play any competitive tennis.

In the wake of the ruling, speculation is mounting that the Australian Open will be delayed. If not, players will only have a four-day period between finishing their quarantine and playing their first tournament of the new year.

Martin Pakula, who is the sports minister for the Victorian Government, said on Wednesday that it was likely there would be a slight delay to the start of the competition due to what he describes as ‘very complex negotiations.’

“I still think it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter rather than longer delay. I don’t want to unduly repeat myself but these are very complex negotiations,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Pakula as saying.
“I’m still confident we’ll have an Australian Open, and we’ll have one in the early part of the year.”

It is also still unclear as to what will be happening to other tournaments that were set to be held in the country such as the ATP Cup, Brisbane International and others. Tennis Australia had previously said they intend to relocate some of their events to Melbourne in order to minimise travel. However, due to the delay in players arriving those plans are in doubt. If they were held after the Australian Open, it would have a significant impact on both the ATP and WTA Tour calendars.

“There’s a number of potential dates on the table. I’ve seen reports that suggest that it’s likely to be delayed by a week or two. I think that’s still most likely,” said Pakula. “But it’s not the only option. As you know, the French Open was delayed by many months and Wimbledon didn’t occur at all.
“I still think it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter [delay] rather than a longer one.”

Pakula has also confirmed that the conditions of the ‘biosecure bubble’ which players will be kept in are yet to be finalized. Although he says there will be a rigorous testing system in place.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said over the weekend that a date for the Australian Open should be confirmed within 14 days.

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Rafael Nadal Urges Calm Over Australian Open As Officials Search For Solution

The world No.2 has confirmed his intentions to play at the Grand Slam but there are fresh doubts over when it will be getting underway.

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20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal has urged his peers to remain patient amid growing uncertainty over what the start of the 2021 season in Australia will look like.

 

Earlier this week it was confirmed that the government of Victoria refused a plan for 550 players to travel to the region next month in a move that could force a delay to the start of the Australian Open. Instead players will not be allowed to arrive until January 1st and then they will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine process. As it stands during that time they are reportedly allowed to train but not play in tournaments.

The ATP has already acknowledged that ‘new challenges’ have arisen in an internal letter issued to their players. Should the Australian Open dates remain unchanged, there will only be a four-day break between quarantine ending and the Grand Slam starting.

Questioned about the situation following his exit from the ATP Finals on Saturday, Nadal said he and others just need to ‘accept the situation’ by respecting any decision taken by the government.

“I don’t know what’s the situation going to be yet,” he said. “We need to wait about what the (state) government there in Victoria says.
“We can’t do much from ATP position or just wait. We have nobody to say what they feel is better for his country.
“We just need to be patient and accept the situation that we are facing. That is difficult for everyone. We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year.”

The head of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, has tried to allay concerns in a statement released on Sunday. Providing an update on the current situation, he says a plan taking into account the ‘needs of the players, fans, partners and staff’ is currently being drawn up alongside the Victorian Government. Although it is unclear as to when it will be finalised or what the final decision will be.

“We are continuing our urgent talks with local health authorities regarding quarantining and bio-security requirements and are confident we will have decisions soon,” said Tiley.
“Tennis Australia is acutely aware of the need for certainty, but also conscious of reaching a solution with the State Government that ensures the safety of the entire community.”

The Australian Open isn’t the only issue, it is what will happen with other events such as the ATP Cup. Originally it was hoped that various tournaments which usually take place around the country would be moved to Melbourne in order to minimise travelling. Now due to the later than planned arrival dates and quarantine, it is possible some of these events could be axed. So far the only event confirmed to have the chop is the Australian Open junior tournament, which will take place later in the year.

Amid the uncertainty, Nadal says he is hopeful that the Tour would return to a degree of normality in the future.

“Hopefully with the vaccine, that ends soon and we can come back at least to close to normal in a couple of months, but now is a difficult situation,” Nadal concluded.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this week’s ATP Finals is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in its history.

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Bombshell Puts Australian Tennis Events In Doubt

It is looking increasingly likely that players will not be allowed to play any tournament leading up to the first Grand Slam of 2021.

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The start of the 2021 tennis season has been dealt a massive blow as it has emerged that players hoping to travel to Australia next month will not be allowed to.

 

It is being reported that initial plans by Tennis Australia to allow roughly 550 players to enter their ‘bubble’ within the coming weeks have been blocked by the government in a move which may force the cancellation of any tournament set to take place prior to the Australian Open. A plan had been set out for players to arrive in December so they can enter into a mandatory 14-day quarantine. However, it now appears that the proposal has been denied due to COVID-19 protocols.

Unless there is a change of heart, players will not be allowed into the country until January 1st and then they will have to go through quarantine. Then under the current schedule the Australian Open will start just four days after. Players are not allowed to play any tournaments whilst in quarantine. The ATP, which is the governing body of men’s tennis, has issued an internal statement acknowledging that there are ‘new challenges’ concerning arrival times.

“In discussions with Tennis Australia over the past 24 hours, we have been informed there are some new challenges around the previously planned arrival dates for players and team members,” the ATP told its members.
“We continue to work with Tennis Australia on confirming plans for January, and we will provide an update as soon as more information is available in the coming days.
“We understand there is uncertainty about the start of the 2021 season, and we are working as hard as possible to deliver the best possible calendar of events to players, maximising points, jobs and prize money opportunities.”

Less than a week before the bombshell, Tennis Australia confirmed their desire to relocate various tournaments to Melbourne due to travel restrictions. The idea was for events usually held in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart to be moved to the area. However, it is now unclear as to what if any will go ahead now.

There have been rumours of the Australian summer potentially being extended into February which will allow for more events outside of the Australian Open to take place in the region. However, this has not been confirmed and there is no indication yet that the date of the Grand Slam will be moved back.

“Whether (players) need to be here in December… I don’t know that that necessarily means there isn’t an Australian Open,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.
“Whether there are lead-in tournaments, that’s to be worked through.”
“It has to be done safely, it has to be done properly. We are working very, very closely with Tennis Australia. They are working (with) all of their partners and we’re confident that we’ll finish up with an Australian Open.” He later added.

There is yet to be any public comment from Tennis Australia regarding the latest development. Although the CEO of the organisation, Craig Tiley, has confirmed to The Tennis Channel that the tune-up events for the Australian Open are now in jeopardy.

The Australian Open is scheduled to start on January 18th.

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