The 2021 Australian Open is underway, technically, with the qualifiers played offsite in Doha and Dubai this week ahead of next month’s official tournament in Melbourne, with local Bernard Tomic among those to progress.
Australian bad boy Bernard Tomic, 28, is a divisive figure in his homeland, having risen as high as 17th on the world rankings and reaching a Wimbledon quarter-final but his attitude has let him down and he’s slipped outside the top 200.
However, Tomic has committed to this year’s Australian Open with his success in qualifying in Doha, winning his way through to the main draw with three victories completed by a three-set triumph over wildcard John-Patrick Smith.
“I am in Doha, I risked my life flying here, my health, Covid’s around, many sick, with many things that can go wrong,” Tomic said.
“I’m risking my life, and I’m playing and competing. Of course, I want to get there, he said, when asked if his tennis ambitions still burned.
“Otherwise I’d be hanging my rackets up. I don’t need to play tennis again, I’ve got enough money, so why are you asking me that question? Don’t ask questions like that.”
The official Australian Open is due to run from February 8-21 in Melbourne, having been delayed three weeks as organisers grapple with a suitable COVID-19 plan given the complexities of bringing in hundreds of athletes from around the world.
Other majors, including the US Open and French Open, have been held amid the COVID-19 pandemic but Australia represents a different challenge given the island nation’s low rate of coronavirus spread.
As a result, Australian authorities are desperate to avoid a situation where the complacency of foreigners permitted inside the country for sport or entertainment could lead to a fresh outbreak.
Among the other high profile qualifiers was Viktor Troicki, Frederico Ferreira Silva and Tmea Babos, while Andy Murray has been handed a wildcard along with popular local Daria Gavrilova.