ATP: Start of 2021 calendar includes delayed Australian Open

FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 file photo, Serbia's Novak Djokovic holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after defeating Austria's Dominic Thiem in the men's singles final of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia. The 2021 Australian Open will begin three weeks later than planned. That is part of a pandemic-altered 2021 tennis calendar released by the mens professional tour Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020.  (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)
FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 file photo, Serbia's Novak Djokovic holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after defeating Austria's Dominic Thiem in the men's singles final of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia. The 2021 Australian Open will begin three weeks later than planned. That is part of a pandemic-altered 2021 tennis calendar released by the mens professional tour Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LONDON – The Australian Open is set to begin Feb. 8, three weeks later than planned, as part of a pandemic-altered 2021 tennis calendar released by the men’s professional tour.

The ATP said that men’s qualifying for the season’s first Grand Slam tournament is being moved to Doha, Qatar, from Jan. 10-13.

That will be followed by a period of about 2 1/2 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 hard-court Australian Open.

Ahead of an expected Tennis Australia announcement on the tournament, local media reported Thursday that players in the main draw would be allowed to bring only two team members into the country and that the federal and state governments had capped the maximum number of players and teams allowed into the country at 1,000.

Victoria state went through a serious second wave of COVID-19 in the last half of the year, resulting in more than 800 deaths after lockdowns and overnight curfews were instituted. But the state has not had any new active cases in more than six weeks.

Players will also have restricted practice times at Melbourne Park and then must spend the remainder of the time in their hotel rooms. They will be transported between their downtown hotel and the tennis center in biosecure transport.

There will also be extensive COVID-19 testing done before the players arrive and during a two-week quarantine period ahead of the tournament.