For many months there was doubt if the 2021 Australian Open would take place.
But a massive effort to get Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak under control has allowed the first grand slam of the year to take place.
A new date has been announced and players must spend two weeks in hotel quarantine when they get to Melbourne.
With less than two months until the new scheduled start, there are still plenty of questions about how the Australian Open will be played with the backdrop of COVID-19.
When will the Australian Open be played?
The first tennis major of the year will start on February 8.
The tournament had originally been set for a January 18 beginning.
The three-week delay has been put in place following months of speculation.
The new schedule means the tournament will finish on February 21.
Do players, officials and support staff need to quarantine?
Yes they do.
Anyone coming from overseas for the Australian Open will go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine when they arrive in Melbourne.
The Victorian Government signed off on the arrangement on Friday.
Most are expected to arrive in Melbourne in mid-January.
The Victorian Government has required regular testing of players and support staff.
All participants from overseas will be tested for COVID-19 before they depart for Australia.
They will then be tested for COVID-19 at least five times while they are in quarantine.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said players would be regularly tested.
“They will be transported from the hotel, which is the only assigned hotel for players and will be brought to the courts for no more than five hours a day and for 14 days they’ll be able to do that,” he said.
Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley said the quarantine arrangements were fair for players and the community.
“The main consideration is the public health protection — that’s at the heart of this arrangement,” he said.
Mr Foley said he hoped the Federal Government would not count towards the number of international arrivals Melbourne was allowed to take.
“We are confident that the Commonwealth will approve those arrangements that these players are an addition to Melbourne’s numbers of returnees,” he said.
“This is not at the expense of returning Australians.”
How will the players prepare ahead of the Open?
Many players had voiced concerns over the need to prepare ahead of the tournament.
US Open finalist Alex Zverev in November said players needed to be able to practice before the tournament began.
“Because if we can’t even practice for 14 days and we have to go out to play the Australian Open, it’s a lottery,” the German said.
“You can basically flip a coin who wins.”
This wish has been granted, with practice during quarantine being allowed.
Players will be allowed to train for a maximum of five hours per day at a secure facility.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said players would be supervised when they were training to ensure they do not mix with people outside of their bubble.
“All of the time that they’ve spent training is observed, to make sure that they’re not mixing and the few close contacts that they have in those bubbles become the close contacts if anyone tests positive,” he said.
“I think we’re managing a pretty tricky situation in terms of the requirements of the players to be able to train, but we are not cutting any corners in terms of managing that risk of transmission.”
Will fans be allowed to attend?
There will be a cap on the number of spectators allowed to attend the Open, with tournament organisers at this stage planning for 50 per cent crowd capacity at Melbourne Park.
Tickets will go on sale to the general public next Wednesday.
The US Open was played without spectators allowed to attend the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow last August and September.
The French Open, which was contested in late September and early October, had a vastly reduced spectator capacity, with crowds only allowed to attend the main courts at Roland Garros.
Will other tournaments be played this summer?
Both the women’s and men’s tours have confirmed their schedules prior to the start of the Australian Open.
The WTA Tour kicks off with a tournament in Abu Dhabi, beginning on January 5.
Qualifying for both the Australian Open women’s and men’s draws will take place in Dubai from January 10-13, giving those who qualified time to travel to Melbourne and complete the two-week quarantine period.
The WTA will stage two events concurrently at Melbourne Park from January 31 to February 7.
A tournament will also be contested at the venue during the second week of the Open for those players already eliminated from the women’s draw at the season-opening major.
The ATP Tour announced its plans for the Australian Open build-up on Thursday.
The men’s schedule features three warm-up events in Melbourne, including the relocated Adelaide International and the ATP Cup, which was played for the first time this year.
The ATP Cup will be played in a condensed format from February 1-5.
Twelve countries will contest the tournament, instead of the 24 that played in the inaugural edition —won by Serbia — last January in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.
The ATP Tour will start in the first week of January with a tournament in Delray Beach, Florida.
There will also be a tournament in Antalya, Turkey, starting on January 5.