By: Joseph Berger
To all the tennis fans out there, turn on your televisions and put on The Tennis Channel because the professional tennis season has begun. The official start of the women’s season was on January 6 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, while the start of the men’s was on January 7 in Delray Beach, Florida and in Antalya, Turkey. Professional women’s tennis player Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus kicked off her 2021 season right where she left off, with a third straight tournament victory in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open. One of the upcoming young men from Poland, Hubert Hurkacz, also started off the year by winning the Delray Beach Open by defeating Sebstian Korda, a young, up and coming star who is the son of famous tennis player, Petr Korda. Alex de Minaur of Australia was victorious at the Antalya Open.
While many tournaments have been canceled, many will continue amidst the pandemic. On the women’s side, these tournaments include the Gippsland Trophy and the Yarra Valley Classic, both in Australia. Some men will participate in the Murray River Open, Great Ocean Road Open, and the annual ATP Cup. After these tournaments, the first Grand Slam of the year for men and women, the Australian Open in Melbourne, is scheduled to take place despite the pandemic. The Australian Open is in action February 8-20, which has been delayed from the usual start date in January. ESPN is home to the casual 2 am viewing of the Australian Open for tennis fans in the western hemisphere.
Despite the excitement of the year’s first major, there is a major health risk to each player and to the people of Australia as foreign players take flights to Melbourne. Seventy-two players on both the ATP and WTA tours were forced to quarantine for 14 days after members on three different flights to Australia tested positive for Covid-19. Originally, players were allotted a set amount of practice time each day on court, but the mandatory quarantine period for those 72 players meant leaning mattresses against the wall of the hotel room and getting to work rallying against the foam structure. The creativity of training regimens resulted in some out-of-the-box hobbies such as Frenchman, Edouard Roger-Vasselin’s tennis themes Rube Goldberg machine. While this Australian Open will be very unique from other years, players and audience members emphasize making the best out of it.