Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley made a huge announcement this week, letting the world know that tennis greats Roger Federer and Serena Williams are going to play at the 2021 Australian Open in January.
Tiley made the announcement on Sunday, saying the year‘s first grand slam is expected to allow fans to fill up to 50 percent of the seats at Melbourne Park. The return of fans to the stadium will mark a big change for the most-populous city in Victoria, which has been under a strict coronavirus lockdown for nearly three months now. The state of Victoria accounts for 90 per cent of Australia’s 894 COVID-19-related deaths.
This announcement is big news for the tennis stars as they’re both coming off of injuries that kept them from winning this time around.
Federer reached the semi-finals of this year’s Australian Open, but the 20-times grand slam champion ended up missing the rest of the season after undergoing a second procedure on his right knee.
As for Serena, she just recently pulled out of her second round match at the French Open due to an Achilles injury and is still one short of Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles.
“Roger this morning just confirmed publicly he‘ll be here,” Tiley said on Sunday. “Serena Williams will be here obviously trying to get Margaret Court‘s record, so we’re excited about the players that will be here and what we’ll put on.”
When speaking on his return, Federer let fans know that he can’t wait to return to the court.
“Thankfully, with COVID-19, I’ve been healthy, everybody around me as well,” he said on a recent podcast. “The Tour coming to a halt was tough to see but it’s back now so that‘s nice.”
For this event at the top of next year, it looks like the organizers in Australia are taking a similar approach to what’s going on in the NBA right now.
Many of the sport’s top players missed the US Open due to concerns over the pandemic, and Ash Barty opted to not travel to Paris to defend her French Open title. Because of these concerns, Tennis Australia are planning to establish bio-security ‘bubbles’ in cities across Australia starting in early December.
Organizers are also looking at giving players who arrive in Australia early more tournament play opportunities to prepare for the January 18-31 grand slam, which had over 800,000 fans at its Melbourne Park site this year.
“We‘re going to have six weeks of tennis, in fact more tennis and events than ever before,” said Tiley. “(Players) will have two weeks of quarantine that they will do in cities around Australia and for those two weeks we’re creating a bubble from the hotel to the courts in a training environment, not too dissimilar to what‘s happened with the AFL and NRL.”
“By then, we expect the border to be completely open,” Tiley continued. “...We can move from city to city and then come down to Melbourne for the Australian Open for the last two weeks of January.”