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Tennis ‘21: Covid questions key; Nadal, Djokovic eye records

When the 2020 males’s tennis season ended on the ATP Finals, Rafael Nadal captured a standard sentiment that also holds true because the 2021 tennis season is about to start this week.

“The world is suffering a lot, so we are very lucky that we can play tennis,” Nadal stated in London in November. “That’s the real feeling that I have.”

After an off-and-on, pandemic-altered yr for the game, coronavirus questions and an ever-evolving calendar nonetheless will probably be key components of the dialog as issues get going with main-draw motion Wednesday on the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open, the place Sofia Kenin leads the sector, and Thursday on the ATP’s Delray Beach Open, the place final yr’s champion, Reilly Opelka, withdrew, citing an injured knee.

Opelka joined a number of gamers — a gaggle that features Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic — in pulling out of the hard-court match held final February and pushed to early January this time as a part of a shuffling on each skilled excursions.

The scheduling adjustments embody the beginning of the yr’s first main championship, the Australian Open, delayed three weeks to Feb. 8, and the joint occasion performed at Indian Wells, California — canceled final yr due to the COVID-19 outbreak — giving up its traditional March dates and not using a new spot for it on the schedule as of now.

There are some vital milestones within the offing for stars equivalent to Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams in 2021.

Nadal can break a tie with Roger Federer for probably the most Grand Slam singles titles for a person after matching him with No. 20 on the French Open in October; by March, Djokovic can surpass Federer’s document for many weeks at No. 1 within the ATP rankings; Williams is one Slam singles trophy away from No. 24, which might equal Margaret Court for probably the most within the sport’s historical past.

Other tennis storylines in 2021:

FEDERER’S RETURN

More than 12 months could have handed between matches for the 39-year-old Federer by the point he returns from two operations on his proper knee. Federer’s agent instructed The Associated Press he’s aiming for late February after lacking the Australian Open for the primary time since his main-draw debut in 2000.

THE SLAMS

There had been solely three Slams in 2020, as a result of the All England Club canceled Wimbledon for the primary time since World War II. As of now, Wimbledon is scheduled for its traditional place on the calendar, starting June 28. The French Open’s begin received shifted from May to September final yr and the variety of followers was severely restricted; as of now, it’s slotted for May 23. For the Australian Open, there are lingering questions about flights, accommodations and quarantine plans for gamers and their personnel. “I’m not that excited, to be honest. Like, I don’t want to stay in my room for 19 hours,” the Thirty ninth-ranked Opelka stated. “You know, I get it; we have to do it. But I’m not one bit excited.”

TOKYO OLYMPICS

The 2020 Olympics, as they’ll nonetheless be known as, are scheduled to begin in July, and two tennis gamers representing Japan may very well be breakout stars: AP Female Athlete of the Year Naomi Osaka and Nishikori. “The Olympics are a special time when the world comes together to celebrate sports. I am looking forward most to being with the athletes that had waited and trained for over 10 years, for celebrating a very hard year (2020), and having that happen in Japan makes it that much more special,” Osaka wrote in an e mail interview. “It’s a special and beautiful country filled with culture, history and beauty. I cannot be more excited.”

CROWDED COMPETITION

Should be fascinating to observe the younger girls who not too long ago received Grand Slam titles compete for extra. That contains No. 1 Ash Barty, who’s 24; No. 3 Osaka, 23; No. 4 Kenin, 21; No. 7 Bianca Andreescu, 20; No. 17 Iga Swiatek, 19.

WHO’S GOT NEXT?

There look like extra legit candidates for first-time main champions in males’s tennis than there have been in years. With Dominic Thiem becoming a member of the membership final yr on the no-spectator U.S. Open, who will be part of him? Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev all seem succesful.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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