UPDATE: On Thursday, WTA CEO Steve Simon told Reuters that the women's tour was looking into kicking off its season at the beginning of January, before heading to Australia.
The WTA is planning to start the 2021 season in the first week of January outside Australia before the players travel to Melbourne for quarantine ahead of the Grand Slam, women's tour chief Steve Simon told Reuters. https://t.co/1TUvTSrCbI— Reuters Sports (@ReutersSports) December 4, 2020
With less than a month to go until the new year, the Australian Open’s start date remains in limbo—though perhaps for not much longer.
According to The Age, the season’s first Grand Slam tournament, currently scheduled to begin on January 18, will instead commence three weeks later on February 8. The information was obtained from a note sent to players from Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley. Tiley has maintained that updated information about the Australian Open will be released imminently, with this report being the strongest signal yet.
Some of the details include:
—Players will arrive in Melbourne between January 15 and January 17, on chartered flights paid for by Tennis Australia, with a mandated 14-day quarantine beginning only after the last player arrives.
—Players can train during the quarantine, with only one other player, if they receive a negative COVID-19 test on the second day of the quarantine. They can train with a maximum of four players/coaches after receiving a third negative test on the eighth day of quarantine.
—In total, each player will be tested five times during the quarantine period, on days 1, 3, 7, 10 and 14.
—Players may only leave their hotels for a maximum of five hours per day—up to two hours on a court, up to two hours in a gym, and up to one hour eating at the tournament site. Player travel is restricted to Melbourne Park and the Albert Reserve Tennis Centre.
—Players may only bring one coach; Tennis Australia will also pick up the cost of entourage travel and accommodation.
—The tournament will pay full prize money, with possible redistribution of earnings to increase early-round purses.
There was no additional indication given about fan capacity.
“A February 1 start date would not have allowed any matches [health authorities rules out matches in the bubble] and also would have been unfair to players who may get infected during quarantine—as it would've ruled them out of the AO,” Tiley said in the player note, according to The Age.
We will continue to update this developing story.