Tennis-2021 WTA season to begin in Abu Dhabi; Auckland, Shenzhen events scrapped

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(Reuters) - The WTA will kick off its 2021 season in Abu Dhabi from Jan. 5-13 but tournaments in Auckland and Shenzhen will not take place this year, tour organisers said on Saturday as they released their calendar for the first seven weeks of the season.

Australian Open qualifying will take place in Dubai from Jan. 10-13.

Players will then relocate to Melbourne to enter quarantine for two weeks ahead of the Australian Open, which will begin on Feb. 8, three weeks later than scheduled.

Following the quarantine period, two WTA 500 tournaments will be held concurrently in Melbourne Park from Jan. 31-Feb. 7 to help players prepare for the first Grand Slam of the season.

A WTA 250 event will also be held in the second week of the Australian Open.

"We are excited to announce the first swing of tournaments representing the opening weeks of the 2021 WTA season, all of which will operate in an environment that puts health and safety at the forefront," WTA Chairman Steve Simon said in a statement.

"We want to express our sincere appreciation for the cooperation between key tennis stakeholders and organizations, along with the local health authorities who have been vital in getting us to this point.

"The hard work will continue as we look further ahead into 2021 to ensure a safe and robust calendar."

In 2020 the WTA had events in Shenzen and Auckland starting on Jan. 6 but those were scrapped for the 2021 season due to travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine. The two tournaments will return to the calendar in 2022.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)