By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) - The second edition of the ATP Cup is still scheduled to go ahead in January and Tennis Australia is considering adding more events alongside it to allow players to prepare for the Australian Open, TA Chief Executive Craig Tiley told Reuters.
The $15 million ATP Cup, a joint venture between the men's tour and TA, debuted last year at the heart of a rejigged Australian Open warm-up schedule, which also included women's events in Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart.
The 24-nation men's team competition received rave reviews but, along with every other sporting event in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a question mark over whether it can go ahead in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney in 2021.
"We are talking a lot to the ATP every week. We both want to run it," Tiley said on a video call this week.
"It was a great start-up event, it was massively successful. We are planning on having it in three cities and we're working with those cities.
"We've got a lot of work to do logistically to make this all work. We need to make sure the players are safe. But I think they're going to be pretty hungry to want to play some tennis with some crowds by the time we get to January."
Tiley also runs the Australian Open and he told Reuters organisers were confident of hosting their Grand Slam in the usual January slot with full prize money and fans in the stands.
Part of that plan is to establish five bio-security 'bubbles' in cities across Australia from early December, and TA are looking at giving players who arrive early more tournament play opportunities to prepare for the Grand Slam.
"We're probably going to add some events leading into the Australia Open," added Tiley.
The Auckland Classic and the Qatar Open have become popular stops for players on their way to the Australian Open and Tiley is mindful of stepping on toes.
The much-discussed trans-Tasman bubble, a proposed travel corridor between Australia and New Zealand, would certainly help secure Auckland's position as a stopover but Tiley said any international travel was still going to be complicated.
"We're already talking to them, we want to support Auckland in whatever way we possibly can and we are talking about what those possibilities are," Tiley said.
"It's going to be really difficult if a player went to Auckland, and then had to quarantine there, and then fly from Auckland to Australia and quarantine here. It's hard. We want to protect Doha ... we want Auckland to have a successful event.
"But I do think it's going to be difficult to be in many different global cities just before the Grand Slam."
Tiley said he was in regular contact with top players and said while the overall mood was positive there was still some "guarded concern".
"We've got to just talk them through their safety, what's been done," added Tiley. "But we're also not forcing anyone to come, it's ultimately their choice.
"We're going to provide the best possible environment.
"If they get on the flight and come we'll ensure their safety. If they choose to stay at home for their safety, we will respect that as well."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Nick Mulvenney and Peter Rutherford)