An extra women’s tournament, catering for players unbale to train on court during their 14-day hard lockdowns in Melbourne, has been added to the calendar ahead of next month’s Australian Open.
- The additional women’s tournament will be contested from February 3-7
- A total of 72 players remain in hard lockdown in Melbourne
- The men’s lead-up events in Melbourne have been pushed back a day as part of the re-jigged schedule
It means six tournaments will be staged simultaneously at Melbourne Park early next month ahead of the Open, which is due to begin on February 8.
The new tournament, to be contested from February 3-7, will run alongside two existing WTA 500 events (January 31-February 6), two men’s ATP 250 tournaments and the men’s ATP Cup.
The two ATP 250 events have been pushed back 24 hours and will begin on February 1, with each featuring an increased singles main draw size of 56.
The ATP Cup will also start a day later than originally scheduled on February 2.
A total of 72 players remain in hard lockdown after three chartered flights to the Australian Open returned positive COVID-19 case.
They include former Australian Open champions Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber, as well as 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu.
How quarantined players are preparing for the Australian Open
Confined to their hotel rooms for two weeks and unable to train, some tennis players have come up with novel ways to prepare for the Australian Open.
The new women’s tournament is an olive branch to players unable to leave their hotel rooms to train, given the disadvantages they faced in the build up to a two-week Australian Open.
“This has been a particularly challenging time for the athletes in hard lockdown and we, along with the WTA and ATP, aim to do everything we can to help,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement.
“These changes to the lead-in events have been made to give the 72 players a little bit of extra time to help them prepare.
“We also will prioritise them for things like practice sessions, gym and ice baths.”
Emerging Ukranian player Dayana Yastremska is among those locked down, but she will not feature in any tournament after her appeal to lift a doping ban was rejected on Sunday.
The world number 29 sparked controversy when she was filmed on a Tennis Australia charter flight to Melbourne for the Australian Open, despite testing positive to a banned substance in an out-of-competition sample.
She was then placed in a hard 14-day lockdown after a passenger on that flight returned a positive test of their own.
Meanwhile, Portugal’s Joao Sousa will miss his first major since 2013, joining British great Andy Murray as an absentee because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Sousa since returned a negative test and has no symptoms, but with a 14-day quarantine on arrival has run out of time to join the field.
His withdrawal comes after it was revealed three non-playing people in hard lockdown who tested positive after travelling for the Open had the highly-contagious UK strain of the virus.
Australian Open lead-up schedule
- WTA 500 Gippsland Trophy (January 31February 6)
- WTA 500 Yarra Valley Classic (January 31-February 6)
- ATP 250 Great Ocean Road Open (February 1-7)
- ATP 250 Murray River Open (February 1-7)
- WTA 500 Grampians Trophy (February 3-7)
- WTA 250 Phillip Island Trophy (February 13-19)