Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has announced Roger Federer and Serena Williams will play at the 2021 Australian Open in January, delighting fans across the world.
On Sunday, Tiley said the year's first grand slam is expected to allow fans to fill up to 50 percent of seats at Melbourne Park.
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The return of fans will mark a big change for Melbourne, which has been under a strict coronavirus lockdown for nearly three months.
The state of Victoria accounts for 90 per cent of Australia’s 894 COVID-19-related deaths.
Federer reached the semi-finals of this year’s Australian Open but the 20-times grand slam champion has missed the rest of the season after undergoing a second procedure on his right knee.
“Roger this morning just confirmed publicly he'll be here,” Tiley said on Sunday.
“Serena Williams will be here obviously trying to get Margaret Court's record, so we're excited about the players that will be here and what we'll put on.”
Federer, 39, said he can’t wait to return to the tour.
“Thankfully, with COVID-19, I’ve been healthy, everybody around me as well,” the Swiss legend said in a recent podcast.
“The Tour coming to a halt was tough to see but it’s back now so that's nice.”
Williams, also 39, pulled out of her second round match at the French Open due to an Achilles injury and is still one short of Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles.
Fans took to social media to celebrate the confirmation that Federer and Williams will be back in action in 2021.
Best news ever. Finally some magic on the tennis court.
— Vallon (@Vallon_92) October 4, 2020
Looking forward to seeing you there champ!
— Ovie (@ovie52009) October 4, 2020
Oh great Novak has one more beat down to get through. such wonderful news
— milly (@milly33466135) October 4, 2020
Hope #strandedAussies can get in by then, too. Whatever you can do to help, we‘re grateful. @rogerfederer @serenawilliams @CraigTiley @TennisAustralia @ashbarty @naomiosaka @KKeneally @richardmcolbeck @darren_cahill People have tickets, our government just won’t let us fly home.
— Lucy Morrell (@longlostlucy) October 4, 2020
2021, baby!!! 👊🏼😁
— Hamilton is the only good thing about 2020 (@MidtermsPlease) October 4, 2020
Tennis Australia’s plan for Aus Open ‘bubbles’
Many top players missed the US Open due to concerns over the pandemic, while Australia’s women’s World No.1 Ash Barty also opted to not travel to Paris to defend her French Open title.
Tennis Australia are planning to establish bio-security ‘bubbles’ in cities across Australia from early December.
Organisers are also looking at giving players who arrive early Down Under more tournament play opportunities to prepare for the January 18-31 grand slam, which had over 800,000 fans at its Melbourne Park site this year.
“We're going to have six weeks of tennis, in fact more tennis and events than ever before,” said Tiley.
“(Players) will have two weeks of quarantine that they will do in cities around Australia and for those two weeks we’re creating a bubble from the hotel to the courts in a training environment, not too dissimilar to what's happened with the AFL and NRL.
“By then, we expect the border to be completely open and we can move from city to city and then come down to Melbourne for the Australian Open for the last two weeks of January.”
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