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Australian Open revamps lead-in schedule to help players in lockdown

The Australian Open will revamp the match schedule in the lead-in week to give dozens of players in hard hotel lockdown the best possible preparation and training opportunities.

According to a statement from the tournament on Sunday, there will be three WTA 500 events, two of which were originally planned from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, with slightly reduced draw sizes. For those players who've been unable to train, the third event will commence on Feb. 3 and finish on Feb. 7.

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The two ATP 250 events and ATP Cup will be all pushed back by 24 hours. The two ATP events will begin on Feb. 1, each featuring an increased singles' main draw size of 56, while the ATP Cup will start on Feb. 2.

"These changes to the lead-in events have been made to give the 72 players a little bit of extra time to help them prepare. We also will prioritise them for things like practice sessions, gym and ice baths," Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said in the press release.

Based on extensive consultation between players and the tours, the new schedule was made after 72 players were deemed close contacts and required to isolate themselves in their hotel rooms for 14 days without access to training courts, as some people on the same charter flight with them tested positive. The hard quarantine and no access to training before the important tournament was a source of complaints from the player, with unequal practice and playing conditions.

WTA CEO Steve Simon said the revised schedule, with one more WTA 500 event added to the week leading into the upcoming Australian Open, will allow athletes coming out of quarantine period to focus on their preparation in a return to competition properly.

ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi also hailed the change of schedule.

"The extra 24 hours before the first ATP Tour events together with priority over practice and preparation will help. We are eager to start what I am sure will be a fantastic summer of tennis in Melbourne in front of our great Australian fans," he said.