Just What Will The 2021 Tennis Calendar Look Like?

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Until the Australian Open finalizes its February 8 start and the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells declares it’s go or no go, it’s anyone’s guess how the first few months of the 2021 tennis calendar will look. The ATP Tour and WTA are hesitant to reveal too much until decisions about Melbourne and Indian Wells are cast in stone.

On Wednesday, Sports Illustrated tennis writer Jon Wertheim, in his weekly mailbag for the sports magazine, offered his best guesses on how he sees the first few months of the 2021 tennis calendar taking shape:

“We’ll see how this all shakes out. So many variables. So much cost-benefit analysis. The tennis mantra of 2020 (and beyond): ‘Tennis’s great virtue – its international nature – is a liability during a time of global pandemic.’ Another mantra (one that, to his credit, has been a central plank of Andrea Gaudenzi): tennis needs to become less reliant on ticket sales and more reliant on media, sponsorship and other sources of revenue (that are scalable and immune to social distancing).

Anyway, this is the encapsulation of a moving target. Every hour, the news changes. But per my sources, here’s where we seem to be at the moment: …”

• The first week of the year is up for grabs. There probably will be some events. (I’d heard that Delray, for instance, was interested in at least investigating a move to this slot.)

• Australian Open qualifying will likely take place outside Australia, with the winners potentially chartered to Melbourne.

• Two weeks of quarantine during the second half of January.

• Multiple events in Melbourne the first week of Feb. including – potentially – a streamlined ATP Cup. The ATP wants the licensing money from Tennis Australia. Tennis Australia wants to stage a credible tune-up, generate some buzz for the AO, and appease its partners. The players want the prize money.

• The Australian Open starts Feb. 8.

• A potential second event in Melbourne Feb. 15, for players no longer in the AO draw.

• A grab bag of events for the second two weeks of February.

• A ‘postponement’ of Indian Wells. Both tours would like to fill these weeks, whether it’s a clay event in South America or moving Delray here. Here’s hoping Indian Wells finds another date on the calendar.

• Conflicting reports on Miami. But for now, it’s on. On the one hand, it’s held at a football facility and it’s not cheap to retrofit the stadium, lay down courts, etc. On the other hand, big opportunity with no Indian Wells.

• Q2 should be better as the vaccination period is underway, travel restrictions should start to lift, and there are no indoor events.

Two more thoughts from Wertheim:

• Here’s an unsolicited suggestion that sounds fanciful – and to some extent, is – but the tours might seriously consider: Contact Dana White and the UFC and consider staging an event like Indian Wells on Fight Island, the spit of land near Abu Dhabi. There is already a testing protocol in place, a bubble blueprint and a government policy. There is already a broadcast infrastructure. There have been enough events staged there that we know it works. It’s convenient for most players and appealing for sponsors. As a stopgap goes, you won’t do much better.

• If I am a small event, do I consider offering to sell my week to Indian Wells this year? There’s not much availability until post-Wimbledon. But by then it’s too hot in the desert. But if I’m a struggling tournament after the U.S. Open in September of October, maybe you offer your week this year?

‘This Is Tennis’ marks significant brand shift for ATP Tour

In an emailed press release on Wednesday, the ATP Tour announced a new campaign designed to promote “both players and tournaments with more dynamism, and a tone of voice that allows tennis to cut through with greater cultural relevance, particularly among the next generation of tennis fans.”

Learn more about the rebrand of the ATP Tour in this insightful piece written by Danielle Rossingh for Forbes SportsMoney:

Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge: No. 1 Mladenovic retires from match

No. 1 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France retired from her second-round match at the ITF W100 Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai Wednesday afternoon due to a back injury. Mladenovic was tied 2-2 in the opening set against No. 177 Elena Gabriela Ruse of Romania when she retired from the match after just 25 minutes. Next, Ruse will face No. 77 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, in the quarterfinal round. Kovinic advanced with a 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over No. 178 Lesley Pattinama Kerkove of the Netherlands.

Also advancing to the quarterfinals were No. 2 seed Polona Hercog of Slovenia, No. 3 seed Heather Watson of Great Britain, No. 5 seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, No. 6 Barbora Krejcikova, and No. 7 seed Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands.

Hercog defeated No. 103 Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain, 6-2, 7-6 (3); Watson beat No. 85 Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, 6-4, 6-2; Siniakova advanced over No. 139 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 6-2, 6-2; Krejcikova defeated No. 222 Dalma Galfi of Hungary, 6-2, 6-4; and Rus beat No. 123 Wang Xiyu of China, 6-1, 6-3.

In Thursday’s other quarterfinals, Hercog will face Rus, Watson will oppose Siniakova, and Krejcikova will take on No. 86 Sorana Cirstea of Romania, who beat No. 134 Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy, 6-0, 6-3.\

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