WTA preparing to make Jan 4 return

WTA preparing to make Jan 4 return

LONDON • 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 first Grand Slam of the year, women’s Tour chief Steve Simon revealed.

“We’re… hopefully close to finalising in the next week or so the ability to stage some events in the week of Jan 4 to start the year,” he said.

He did not provide details of where the Tour might start, but normally both the WTA and the men’s ATP Tours kick off their seasons in Australia.

Last season, the WTA had events in Brisbane, Shenzhen and Auckland starting on Jan 6. But, with strict health measures in place for international arrivals to curb the risk of imported Covid-19 cases, neither China nor New Zealand will likely feature next month.

Both the WTA and the ATP are expected to confirm their 2021 calendars once the details of the Australian Open are approved by the local authorities.

The Australian Open looks likely to be pushed back from its scheduled Jan 18 start as Tennis Australia (TA) continues talks with the local government over Covid-19 protocols to be established for Melbourne Park.

Negotiations over when the players will arrive in Australia and what they will be allowed to do during their 14 days of quarantine have dragged out over the last few weeks but Simon is confident the tournament would go ahead.

“The Australian Open, we’re expecting it to happen,” he said.

“Obviously, the Australian Open will come with a quarantine period to enter Australia so it does create challenges around the month of January.”

Following the quarantine period, the WTA has planned tune-up tournaments and hopes to return to its traditional calendar as closely as possible. The circuit is working with its members and TA to firm up plans, Simon added.

“We’re again getting to a good place and we’ll be able to start the year, and then transition into Australia and then have a great year,” he said.