The start of the 2021 tennis season has been shrouded in uncertainty for a while. The Australian Open has been delayed due to the strict COVID-19 protocols in the country, and Tennis Australia has been under immense pressure to get all the interested parties on the same page. But those wondering whether they would get to see return of top stars like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem any time soon can now breathe a sigh of relief.
The dates for the Australian Open as well as the ATP Cup - the latter of which was earlier feared to be on the chopping block - have reportedly been confirmed. The Australian Open is set to be held from 8 February to 21 February, while the ATP Cup will take place from 1 to 7 February.
Novak Djokovic, the defending champion at both those events, will certainly be pleased with this update - as would the millions of tennis fans all over the world.
The ATP meanwhile had also been under pressure to release its revamped schedule, after Marseille tournament director Jean-Francois Caujolle had let slip on a podcast that a Board meeting had been convened to finalize the calendar. Amidst all the unrest, the ATP has now released a provisional 2021 ATP schedule for events in the early part of the season.
According to the reports, the tournament in Delray Beach will open the 2021 tour season around the week of 4 January, five weeks ahead of its original scheduled date. The ATP 250 tournament in Auckland has been cancelled, and three other 250 events in February will also be subsequently cancelled or moved.
Novak Djokovic has to decide whether he should defend both the ATP Cup and the Australian Open
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was supposed to start his campaign for a 9th Australian Open title around the third week of January, before the threat of the pandemic forced the event to be pushed back. Now that the Melbourne Slam is set to start three weeks after its original date, the entire calendar has had to be shuffled around.
The postponement of the Australian Open, however, hasn't led to the cancellation of the ATP Cup, which will now be held in the first week of February. Novak Djokovic, who beat arch-rival Rafael Nadal in the 2020 ATP Cup final, will have a chance to help Serbia defend the title this year.
Whether Novak Djokovic will play the team event is still not confirmed though, as the Australian Open is set to start the very next week. Looking to win a third consecutive title in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic will be hoping to get in some early preparations at the venue itself.
The Serb won the Australian Open in memorable fashion last year, beating Austria's Dominic Thiem in a thrilling five-setter. He then continued his winning streak at the Dubai Open, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the tour to be suspended.
Djokovic didn't get a chance to play Indian Wells or Miami last year, two tournaments he has been very successful at in the past. But the situation around those tournaments in 2021 is not very dissimilar to last year.
Indian Wells has been temporarily suspended this year, with no confirmation of whether it will be cancelled altogether or moved to a later date. The Miami Masters on the other hand is scheduled to take place in the last week of March, but it remains to be seen whether it will be held at the original venue.Published 16 Dec 2020, 17:42 IST