Could The 2021 Tennis Season Start In Dubai?

WASHINGTON, December 7, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

With the start of the Australian Open all but set to begin on February 8 and, then, players needing to be in Melbourne between Jan. 15-17 to begin a two-week mandatory quarantine, talk of how either the ATP Tour or WTA will begin 2021 is beginning to come into focus. Keep an eye out for Dubai.

With WTA chief executive Steve Simon suggesting that he would like to have a women’s tournament the week of January 4, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates seems like a logical tournament site. After all, both the ATP and WTA hold annual tournaments in Dubai and many European players train in the Emirates during the December off-season period. Dubai has also been suggested as a departure city for players heading to Australia for the Australian Open. So, in theory, it would seem a natural location and destination to commence the new season.

Of note and interest: This week, 13 Top 100 WTA players are in Dubai to compete in the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, a $100K ITF hard court event. Up for grabs during the Dec. 7-13 W100+H event is 150 WTA rankings points to the winner and a first-prize check for $15,200.

The eight seeds in the singles main draw would be the envy of any former WTA International event (now re-named WTA 250): No. 1 Kristina Mladenovic of France (ranked 49th), No. 2 Polona Hercog of Slovenia (52nd), No. 3 Heather Watson of Great Britain (59th), No. 4 Anna Blinkova of Russia (60th), No. 5 Katerina Siniakovaof the Czech Republic (64th), No. 6 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic (65th), No. 7 Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands (73rd), No. 8 Camila Giorgi of Italy (75th). Also, Mladenovic and Timea Babos of Hungary, the reigning Roland Garros champions, are seeded first in the doubles draw.

Will there be a 2021 Indian Wells?

Meanwhile, Sunday afternoon in the U.S., Jon Wertheim, who writes tennis for Sports Illustrated and is a contributor for Tennis Channel, dropped a bit of a bombshell when he tweeted, “In 2020, @BNPPARIBASOPEN cancelled (wisely, courageously) on the eve of the event. Announcement of the 2021 cancellation is, I hear, coming imminently, three months in advance … both tours working to adjust schedule and minimize the impact. …

Later, Wertheim tweeted “Maybe there’s a postponement play and IW can land-grab some dates late in the year, Pfizer willing … be interesting to see if @MiamiOpen (in DeSantis Florida; in the same state that will likely host a Super Bowl weeks earlier) follow suit, or breaks serve, as it were.”

Stay tuned.

From Simo to her fans

“2020 … What to say?

“It has been one of the most challenging years of our lives. When tennis was taken away, I took a step back and realized how grateful I was to be able to play the sport I love for a living. I was proud to come back and win two titles, to build a 17-match win streak and to finish in the Top Four for the seventh consecutive year. I want to thank my team for all their hard work and for the sacrifices they made this year. It wasn’t easy but we all learned a lot.

“The real superheroes of this year, though, are the healthcare workers who are fighting for us every day.

“Looking forward to seeing you all for the 2021 season, Simo.”

A big thank you from Julia Goerges

What they’re saying

Mark Petchey, former British player turned Amazon Prime broadcaster: “It’s a shame we live in the greatest era men’s tennis has ever had and the respective fans can’t spend more time praising the rivals who have made their own particular favorite an even better version of the idol they fell in love with. Respect them for that if nothing else.”

What they’re tweeting

What they’re podcasting

No Challenges Remaining – Host Ben Rothenberg is joined by Tumaini Carayol, Reem Abulleil and Alex Gruskin as they look ahead to 2021.

What they’re sharing on social media

Alizé Cornet / Coups droits sous tous les angles

Borna Coric / Home away from home in Dubai

Carla Suárez Navarro / Thanks for the practice

Stefanos Tsitsipas / Zzzzzz …