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Monday, January 18, 2021

Quarantine regulations mean no Tata Open Maharashtra in February

South Asia’s only ATP event was originally scheduled to take place from February 1.

Written by Shahid Judge | Updated: December 31, 2020 3:21:26 pm
The need to quarantine has been a bone of contention among players, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (PTI/FILE)

There had been speculation, but now that the ATP has published the first-quarter calendar for 2021, it is confirmed that Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune will not be held in early February. South Asia’s only ATP event was originally scheduled to take place from February 1. But after the Australian Open’s dates shifted from a January 18 start to February 8, it was expected that the Indian tournament would have to be rescheduled.

However, the tournament director of the ATP 250 event, Prashant Sutar, asserts the rescheduling was not due to the postponed Australian Open. Instead, it was because of the ATP’s insistence that a tournament venue must not force players into quarantine.

“Australian Open (dates shifting) is not the reason. The thing is the ATP wanted us not to quarantine players,” Sutar told The Indian Express.

“That was something the government and the city would not accept. (Quarantine for travellers from abroad) is mandatory. That was the main reason, otherwise we could have had it a week before or after the Australian Open. The rest could have been managed. It was decided to wait till the pandemic is over, and maybe we can think of having the event in November if we get a good slot.”

Organising the Pune event a week before the Australian Open, however, would have meant that players would not be able to compete at the year’s first Grand Slam since the Australian government too has strict quarantine protocols. In fact, the major shifted dates to allow players to travel to the country between January 15 and 17, finish the mandatory 14-day quarantine, and then compete in a warm-up event followed by the Open.

The need to quarantine has been a bone of contention among players, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In August, ahead of the US Open, Spanish sports daily Marca reported that the top 20 men’s players, led by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, were threatening to boycott the US Open if they were made to enter quarantine when they returned to Europe.

It’s an issue that, for the time being, would have caused problems for the event in India.

The Pune ATP was held last year a week after the Melbourne major – a slot that had been allotted to the tournament for the coming years as well. Now however, organisers are hoping for change.

“We have already requested the ATP for a feasible date in November,” Sutar says. “Hopefully, we can club the ATP with the Pune Challenger and have both events in successive weeks. That way we can sort of create a bubble for the players as they won’t have to travel. We expect the ATP to get back to us in probably the next three months or so when they start making the schedule. Then we will also have to check with the government and the quarantine rules.”

The Coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the tennis tours last year, cancelling all events from March till August – a major casualty was Wimbledon. Post the restart too, many events had to be cancelled, including the Pune Challenger.

“You also have to understand the players’ point of view,” he adds. “You are coming here for a week, but for that you have to quarantine for 14 days, it doesn’t make sense for them.”

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