Blade Fury

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Men’s tennis’s governing body has announced the Australian Open will start on 8 February, three weeks later than planned. Tennis Australia and the Victorian and Australian governments are yet to confirm, but the ATP on Thursday revealed its revised 2021 calendar with the Melbourne Park grand slam front and centre of pandemic-forced shake-up.

The ATP said men’s qualifying for the season’s first major was being moved to Doha, Qatar, from 10 to 13 January. That will be followed by a period of about two and a half weeks set aside for travel to Melbourne and a 14-day quarantine period for players and their coaches or other support staff.

A 12-team ATP Cup, the relocated Adelaide International and an additional men’s tournament will be held in Melbourne to give players a chance to prepare for the Open.

The ATP said the season would start with a tournament beginning in the first week of January in Delray Beach, Florida. That event was contested in February this year, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic took hold. There also will be an early January tournament in Antalya, Turkey.

More 2021 calendar plans for later weeks will be announced separately, the ATP said. Other tournaments that will not take place next year include the New York Open and an event in Auckland, New Zealand.

The ATP is looking for new dates for the Rio Open, which was supposed to begin 17 February but now conflicts with the two-week Australian Open main draw.

As with other sports, tennis was disrupted this year because of the Covid-19 outbreak, including several months with no competition, the postponement of the French Open’s start from May to September, and the cancellation of Wimbledon for the first time since the second world war.

After months of sensitive negotiations with health officials, Tennis Australia said it hoped to formalise the Open start dates later on Thursday.