The Australia Open, the year’s first grand slam, will be held from February 8 to 21, three weeks later than scheduled, the Association of Tennis Professionals has confirmed as it released an update of its calendar for 2021 revising the first seven weeks of the season. The dreaded COVID-19 virus continues to disrupt the tennis calendar as the first major of the season gets delayed by three weeks as planned. Australian Open was scheduled to start on January 18 but the three-week delay will allow players to arrive in Melbourne and undergo quarantine and prepare for two ATP 250 events and the ATP Cup in the lead up to the rescheduled February 8 start. Also Read - 'Do Not Take Covaxin If...': Bharat Biotech Issues Fact-Sheet Amid Concerns Over Side-Effects

The three-week delay to the season’s opening Grand Slam comes after this year’s Wimbledon was cancelled — for the first time since World War II — the French Open was postponed and the US Open was played behind closed doors. Also Read - Coronavirus: Russia’s EpiVacCorona Vaccine Has 100% Efficacy, Claims Report

Fans are expected to be allowed at Melbourne Park, the tournament’s venue, as the coronavirus is under control in Australia, but players will need to undergo 14 days of quarantine. Also Read - 'Not the Time': Biden Administration Drops Order as Trump Lifts Travel Ban With Europe, Brazil

“Australian Open men’s qualifying will take place from 10-13 January in Doha, and the allocated dates of 15-31 January will then allow for travel and a 14-day quarantine period for all players and support staff travelling to Melbourne, in accordance with requirements of Australian public health and immigration authorities.

The ATP 2021 season will get underway with the Delray Beach Open, an ATP 250 event and another single-year licensed hard-court event in Antalya Turkey from January 5 to 13. The action will then shift to Doha where the Australian Open qualifiers will be held from January 10 to 13.

“The controlled environment quarantine period will enable players to prepare ahead of a 12-team ATP Cup in Melbourne, played alongside the relocated Adelaide International, as well as an additional ATP 250 tournament, all held in Melbourne,” the ATP release stated.

A shortened version of the ATP Cup men’s team tournament will take place in Melbourne from February 1-5 before the first slam of the season.

“The reconfigured calendar for the start of the 2021 season represents a huge collaborative effort across tennis, under challenging circumstances. Together with the support of our tournament and player members, partners, and Tennis Australia, we have been able to adapt and create an exciting start to the season,” ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.

“Health and safety will continue to be paramount as we navigate the challenges ahead, and I want to thank everyone involved for their commitment to finding solutions to launch our 2021 season,” he added.

World number one Novak Djokovic is expected to be back and aiming for a ninth Australian Open title after overcoming Austria’s Dominic Thiem in a five-set final earlier this year.