The WTA Tour could add some tournaments to the beginning of the season to fill openings created by the planned three-week delay of the 2021 Australian Open.
WTA CEO Steve Simon told Reuters that the WTA is aiming towards “finalizing in the next week or so the ability to stage some events in the week of Jan. 4,”, which is when the new season was due to start.
The main draw of Australian Open was supposed to commence on January 18, but reports earlier this week revealed it has been pushed back by three weeks to allow for players to complete a required two-week quarantine. There was no mention of WTA tournaments being considered for the second week of the season, as international players aren’t permitted to begin arriving in Australia until January 15, which—together with the time required for traveling Down Under—might not allow for tournaments during that window.
“Obviously the Australian Open will come with a quarantine period to enter Australia so it does create challenges around the month of January,” he said.
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 Grand Slam, women’s tour chief Steve Simon told Reuters. https://t.co/1TUvTSrCbI
— Reuters Sports (@ReutersSports) December 4, 2020
But the CEO is “expecting” that the Australian Open will proceed, and is adjusting the schedule accordingly. The WTA season typically begins with events in Auckland, Brisbane and Shenzhen, but none have approved the holding of tennis events. Simon did not indicate the locations the women’s tour is considering for that week in the schedule.
To help compensate for the added protocols required to stage the Australian Open, Tennis Australia will receive some funding from the government of Victoria to assist with extra costs resulting from the delay of the tournament, relocation of other events and player quarantine requirements.
“The Australian Open of course is a vitally important part of our sporting calendar but it’s also vitally important for Tennis Australia,” Victoria Treasury Minister Tim Pallas was quoted as saying by the Melbourne Age. “We will be in discussions with them about what constitutes an appropriate recognition of what they’re doing to put on this event.”
No amounts were given, but the Treasurer indicated that the talks would be based on the costs of providing players with a location for a two-week quarantine that includes training, plus the timing delays and relocation of events.
“The state will happily provide support,” he said. “It allows us to put on this event safely.”
According to The Australian, the cost to Tennis Australia could be as high as AU$100 million, and would otherwise require it to delve deeply into its own AU$80 million in funds. The cost of the quarantine and other safety protocols was estimated at around $AU40 million on its own.
“To remain solvent, we are going to have to take a large loan and line of credit,” said Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.
The tournament will also have reduced income because crowds are expected to be kept to 50 percent or 25 percent capacity.
While the Australian Open has said it will provide the same prize money as before, though with a larger amount given to the first few rounds, Simon acknowledged that WTA events would pay less this season.
“There’s no question,” he told Tennis Majors, adding, “The players have been very understanding [that] we need to keep our tournaments going.
“I think we’ve got a prize money policy this year… that I think helps both the tournaments and helps the players. And again, I think it’s one of those where we came together.”
Players had also decided that those in the first few rounds and qualifying would also receive a larger share, he said.
“I think it’s a credit to the players that traditionally play deeper into events—the higher-ranked ones—that they’ve been willing to let this happen,” noted Simon.
Neither the WTA Tour nor the ATP Tour has released an official tournament schedule.