Melbourne Summer Series Is Back On Friday

Craig Tiley (photo: Tennis Australia video)

WASHINGTON, February 4, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Tennis Australia chief executive and Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley remained “absolutely confident” that the year’s first major, the Australian Open, will start on Monday. That’s after 507 people (including players, coaches, officials and staff) who were associated with the “Happy Slam” – including 160 players – underwent COVID-19 testing Thursday in Melbourne after Health Authorities advised Tennis Australia earlier in the day that a hotel quarantine worker tested positive for COVID-19.

In all, 62 matches scheduled across six tournaments at Melbourne Park on Thursday in the ATP Cup, the ATP’s Great Ocean Road Open and Murray River Open, and the WTA’s Yarra Valley Classic, Gippsland Trophy and Grampians Trophy events were all postponed and rescheduled for Friday. Additionally, the Australian Open draw, which was due to take place Thursday, was pushed back a day.

“We decided after hearing last night (Wednesday) the position as it relates to the hotel with the quarantine worker is that we were going to postpone all the matches today and schedule them for tomorrow (Friday),” said Tiley, speaking to a group of reporters on the grounds of Melbourne Park Thursday. “Those 507 players and their teams that were in the quarantine hotel between the 16th and 29th of January were immediately notified last night. So, when they got up this morning, at 9 o’clock we would start testing and all of them would have to isolate, get a test, and stay in isolation until they got permission from the health authorities to come out of isolation with their negative tests.

“The probability is very low that there’s going to be an issue. We fully expect them to test negative and to continue with play tomorrow. We’re doing this as an extra precaution. … We’ll continue with the normal preparation day-to-day [for the Australian Open]. This does give us three days for the lead-in events to complete. Obviously, we have some challenging weather (Friday) and we’ll work around that as well. The intention is to start the Australian Open on Monday. There’s no intention of changing the time for the Australian Open.”

Friday’s order of play, which includes 67 total matches, was finally released by Thursday evening. With rain in the Melbourne forecast on Friday, there is the luxury of three stadium courts (all with roofs) and eight indoor courts to ensure play goes on.

While the WTA announced that all of its matches from Friday on would be best-of-two regular tie-break sets with a 10-point match tiebreak if required for a final set, the ATP decided to maintain a regular format of best-of-three sets with a tie-break at 6-all.

“Good decision from the WTA to play a super tie break in the third as the weather forecast are bad (rain),” Patrick Mouratoglou, coach of Serena Williams, wrote on Twitter Thursday. “The last thing you want is to have the players play six sets the same day just two or three days before the start of a GC (Grand Slam).”

For the limited number of spectators who are allowed onto the Melbourne Park grounds, there’s an embarrassment of riches. Friday’s order of play includes Day 3 of the ATP Cup in Rod Laver Arena and John Cain Arena, featuring a showdown match between Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev as Serbia faces Germany for a berth in Saturday’s semifinals against Russia.

Friday’s play also features competition on 12 other courts, including a total of eight women’s quarterfinal matches in the Yarra Valley Classic and Gippsland Trophy on Margaret Court Arena, which has a retractable roof, starting with World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty against American Shelby Rogers, continuing with a rematch of the 2020 Australian Open women’s final between Sofia Kenin and Garbiñe Muguruza, and ending with World No. 5 Elina Svitolina facing Elise Mertens. In between, both Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka will be in action.

We meet again 🙌

On the men’s side, the ATP 250 events will try to get through two rounds of singles in order to get caught up for the weekend.