Six tennis tournaments performed concurrently at one venue throughout a pandemic – that’s the feat Melbourne Park is aiming to tug off subsequent week.
After two weeks of quarantine – and no scarcity of controversy – gamers shall be warming up for the Australian Open.
Men’s world primary Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal lead the sector on the ATP Cup, considered one of three males’s occasions.
And top-ranked Ashleigh Barty performs her first match in virtually a yr in one of many three girls’s occasions.
Andy Murray is not going to compete in Australia as a result of he examined optimistic for coronavirus shortly earlier than he was attributable to journey, however Johanna Konta, Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie are among the many Britons in motion as the location of the opening Grand Slam of the yr opens it doorways to followers and gamers per week earlier than the main occasion begins.
The pre-Australian Open tournaments would normally happen in different cities throughout the nation, together with Brisbane and Adelaide, however have been moved to at least one place.
Proceedings have been beneath the highlight and supply a small style of the logistics that organisers of the postponed Tokyo Olympics will face if their Games are to go forward this summer season.
Quarantine over, let the competitors start
Melbourne had one of many world’s longest lockdowns final yr and plenty of locals have expressed issues concerning the potential Covid danger posed by the Australian Open.
Unlike many European nations and the United States, that are preventing to comprise the virus, Australia has not had a case of neighborhood transmission for 12 successive days and residents have regained lots of their pre-Covid freedoms.
Tennis Australia chartered at the least 15 flights to carry gamers and their entourages into the nation earlier this month for a 14-day quarantine in preparation for the Australian Open, which was pushed again by three weeks.
Three flights had passengers who later examined optimistic for coronavirus, which means that 72 gamers had been confined full-time to their resort rooms for 2 weeks.
One of the ladies’s occasions subsequent week – the Grampians Trophy – is completely for gamers who’ve been in ‘exhausting’ quarantine.
Britain’s Heather Watson, who posted a video of her operating 5K between the door and window in her resort room, is amongst these competing in that match, which additionally options former Australian Open champions Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber, and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.
The remaining gamers who flew into Australia had been additionally in quarantine however had been allowed out for 5 hours of courtroom observe a day.
While many gamers have spoken of their gratitude for having the chance to compete in the course of the pandemic and posted light-hearted movies of revolutionary methods they’ve been coaching of their rooms, others have expressed frustration over quarantine situations.
Tennis Australia says that whereas there are strict measures in place on the occasions – together with social distancing, enhanced hygiene and cleansing protocols – the gamers will be capable of keep on the lodging of their alternative and benefit from the metropolis of Melbourne as they normally do now that the quarantine interval is over.
There shall be followers on the occasions though organisers say they nonetheless have no idea precisely what number of and have been planning for 25-50% capability relying on the federal government rules. Melbourne Park is being divided into three zones and followers will solely be capable of enter the one zone they’ve a ticket for.
Up to 30,000 followers a day shall be allowed to attend the Australian Open.
Djokovic to steer Serbia’s ATP Cup defence
The highest-profile males’s occasion happening is the ATP Cup, the place Djokovic leads Serbia as they appear to defend the title they gained ultimately yr’s inaugural group occasion.
Djokovic has confronted huge criticism for asking Australian Open organisers to chill out quarantine guidelines for gamers. He later stated his letter was “misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful” and he had solely “good intentions”.
Nadal took an obvious swipe at his rival, saying not everybody felt the necessity to “advertise” how they had been making an attempt to assist.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion represents a Spain facet who’re aiming to avenge their defeat by Serbia within the 2020 ultimate.
US Open champion Dominic Thiem leads Austria, whereas ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev performs for Russia.
Britain, who agonisingly missed out on the semi-finals final yr, didn’t qualify this time.
The occasion has been lowered to 12 nations from 24 final yr. The 12 groups shall be divided into 4 teams of three for a round-robin stage, with group winners advancing to the semi-finals.
Barty again and Williams warming up for historical past
Women’s primary and residential favorite Ashleigh Barty will play her first aggressive match in 11 months after lacking a lot of final season due to coronavirus issues.
She is taking part in within the Yarra Valley Classic, which additionally options final yr’s Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams.
Williams, who shall be launching her newest bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title on the Australian Open, and Barty had been amongst a small group of main gamers, together with Nadal and Djokovic, who quarantined in Adelaide and performed in an exhibition occasion there on Friday.
Meanwhile, three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is within the draw for the Gippsland Trophy, the place she is joined by world quantity two Simona Halep and Britain’s Johanna Konta.
Which occasions are the Brits taking part in at?
British primary Dan Evans and compatriot Cameron Norrie are taking part in on the Murray River Open, the place world quantity 18 Stan Wawrinka is the top-ranked participant and Australian Nick Kyrgios can be in motion.
With lots of the world’s finest gamers concerned within the ATP Cup, the fields on the two remaining males’s occasions have been weakened.
Francesca Jones, who has certified for a Grand Slam primary draw for the primary time, options within the Yarra Valley Classic, whereas Katie Boulter joins British primary Konta on the Gippsland Trophy.
British doubles gamers are in motion too, with Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury amongst these searching for some observe earlier than the opening Grand Slam of the yr.