MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka will join Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic in playing a pre-Australian Open warm-up exhibition in Adelaide after serving their quarantine in the South Australian city, Tennis Australia (TA) said on Saturday.
The “A Day at the Drive” event will take place at the city’s Memorial Drive Tennis Centre on Jan. 29, a week before the delayed Grand Slam gets underway at Melbourne Park.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley had already flagged that Ash Barty and Simona Halep would be among the eight players involved in the exhibition with U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem now confirmed as the third man.
Adelaide will also host a WTA tour 500 level event, the Adelaide International, in the week after the Australian Open as TA look to give players every opportunity to compete after travelling Down Under and isolating for two weeks.
“These two tournaments are a real coup for South Australia,” state Premier Steven Marshall said in a news release.
“This is a real show of support for the way that South Australia has managed the COVID-19 pandemic and underlines our ability to attract world-class events.”
Other warm-up tournaments, including a shortened version of the ATP Cup involving Nadal, Djokovic and Thiem, will be held in Melbourne before the Australian Open.
Hundreds of players and entourages will arrive in Australia from Jan. 15 and undergo a mandatory quarantine as part of COVID-19 health protocols for the Asia-Pacific Grand Slam.
The players will be allowed five hours a day outside their hotel rooms to train during their mandatory isolation and Tiley told the Tennis Channel that health regulations would be the same in Adelaide.
However, the Sydney Morning Herald said the Adelaide hotel, with gym facilities, would offer much better accommodation for the players than those on offer in Melbourne.
France’s Jeremy Chardy, ranked 72nd in the world, was not happy with the decision on the Adelaide tournament and feared that top players isolating in the city would benefit from extra privileges.
“This announcement for the top threes is a bit out of the blue, and it’s weird, to put it mildly,” Chardy told L’Equipe.
“They will even be able to benefit from a gym at the hotel and will be able to do their exercises, which will not count towards the five-hour quota.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney and Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai, editing by Lincoln Feast and Richard Pullin)