SINGAPORE: Singapore will host an ATP 250 tennis tournament next month, under strict COVID-19 measures and travel protocols for players and officials, said Sport Singapore (SportSG) on Wednesday (Jan 20).
This comes after the ATP, the governing body of men’s professional tennis, awarded single-year licences for the 2021 season to Singapore and Spain's Marbella.
The two new ATP 250 events in Singapore and Spain are part of measures to increase playing opportunities that were curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, said ATP in a separate release.
The Singapore tournament will be a hardcourt event and is scheduled to take place at the Singapore Sports Hub from Feb 20 to 28.
WORLD-TENNIS ACTION IN SINGAPORE
In a media statement, SportSG said that the tournament will "bring world-class tennis action to Singapore".
"With over 60 ATP tournaments hosted in a typical season, the ATP 250 tournament category forms the backbone of the ATP Tour," SportSG said.
In terms of ranking points on the main men's tour, the ATP 250 tournament category comes after the four Grand Slams, ATP Masters 1000 events and ATP 500 events.
SportSG said that it will work with the Singapore Tennis Association and the Singapore Sports Hub to ensure that COVID-19 safe management measures are strictly implemented at the venue and that travel protocols for players and officials adhere to prevailing government regulations.
"The combined effort will be an important facet of enabling international sporting events to return to Singapore in stages through 2021," SportSG said.
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SINGAPORE MONITORING SITUATION AT AUSTRALIAN OPEN
In a post on Facebook, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong celebrated the announcement.
"Some great news for our sports fans - we might soon get to see some of the World’s top men’s tennis players right here, in Singapore," he wrote.
"We are happy that the ATP, the governing body of men’s professional tennis, has awarded this ATP 250 to Singapore. It will be our first ATP 250 Tournament, hosted in Singapore."
Mr Tong said that the safety of players, coaches, officials and fans will be "top priority".
While the tournament will be held on a single-year license, SportSG CEO Lim Teck Yin said it will be a starting point for future work with the ATP.
“This ATP 250 tournament is an important competition in ATP’s adjusted calendar for the year," Mr Lim said.
"Singapore’s hosting of this event capitalises on the ‘Asia Swing’ and will pave the way for future collaboration with the ATP for future men’s tennis events.
"We are mindful that the COVID situation is fluid and will adapt measures for the tournament that are consistent with the national posture. We are monitoring the situation at the Australian Open where the majority of players will be coming to Singapore from."
A total of 10 people linked to the Feb 8 to 21 Australian Open, including four players, have tested positive for COVID-19.
As many as 72 players have been confined to their hotel rooms for 14 days and unable to train for the tournament. A number of players have complained about the hard quarantine, raising concerns they may be at a disadvantage to better-prepared rivals, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
PRIMARY FOCUS ON SAFETY
Singapore previously hosted the season-ending WTA Finals tournament from 2014 to 2018, which brought the top player's in the women's game to town.
It last hosted a top men's tennis tournament in 1999, with Chile's Marcelo Rios taking home the title.
ATP International Region executive vice president Alison Lee said: “Singapore has an excellent track record delivering international sporting events to a world-class standard."
"We have confidence this tournament will be no exception, with a primary focus on ensuring safety. We look forward to bringing another ATP tournament to the Asia region, which will provide valuable opportunities for our players for the 2021 season.”
Mr Clement Leow, president of the Singapore Tennis Association said that the tournament would be a major boost for sport in Singapore.
“A successful ATP 250 event in Singapore will contribute greatly towards the safe return to sports, as well as fire up the tennis fraternity and help to further promote the sport of tennis in Singapore," he said.
SportSG said that more information on the tournament, including the line-up of players, schedule, COVID-19 protocols and ticketing details, will be announced at a later date.
Singapore made a bid in 2018 to host the prestigious ATP Finals, and was among five cities shortlisted to be the home of the tournament from 2021 to 2025. Turin, Italy, was ultimately named the new venue for the season-ender.
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IMPORTED COVID-19 CASES LINKED TO SPORTING EVENTS
International sporting events resumed in Singapore late last year with mixed martial arts promotion firm ONE Championship staging an event called ONE: Reign of Dynasties on Oct 9. Athletes, officials and crew were allowed on site for the event, subject to COVID-19 measures.
Fans were allowed to return to the stands for a ONE Championship event on Oct 30, with up to 250 spectators given the green light to attend ONE: Inside the Matrix. The event was among the first to pilot the use of COVID-19 antigen rapid tests.
Two cornermen who flew into Singapore from the United States and Russia for the Oct 30 event tested positive for COVID-19. However, they were deemed to have been "past infection cases" and were not considered to have been infectious. As a precaution, they did not participate in the event.
Another cornerman who arrived from Belarus to participate in a Dec 4 ONE Championship event also tested positive for COVID-19, and was conveyed to a hospital for treatment.
Separately, three imported COVID-19 cases have been linked to the ongoing M2 World Championship, an e-sports tournament that started on Jan 18.