For the first time since March, professional tennis is returning to Australia. Competitors will play for prize money in a UTR pro series starting this weekend in Sydney.
The series, which will involve local competition for Australia-based men and women according to the Associated Press, is set to probably run through August. Former U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur is going going to take part in it, while top-ranked Ash Barty is opting out to focus on practicing instead.
In Australia, players have returned to practice at the national tennis academy and community tennis has returned in recent weeks. Those participating must adhere to social distancing guidelines, but the moves have made way for tennis to return not just in the aforementioned Sydney, but also in other hub cities across the country.
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley gave the usual spiel one might expect from someone trying to operate something during this global pandemic. He pointed out that organizers had done a lot of planning to put on a safe domestic series with precautions like strict protocols that limit the number of people on the court and required health checks for players.
"With so much of the tennis season still uncertain, our aim through the UTR Pro Tennis Series is to give as many of our athletes the chance to compete and, importantly, also earn prize money, after months of not being able to make their living playing the sport they have devoted their lives to," Tiley said in a statement, per the AP. "Our team ... worked closely with the authorities and tennis staff around the country to ensure they are run according to strict local biosecurity protocols."
This is not the only tennis series in the world that is happening at this moment. The Novak Djokovic-backed Adria Tour in Serbia and Croatia kicked off recently, but had to be called off when the men's No. 1 and three other players tested positive for COVID-19.
Coronavirus-related restrictions have been relaxed around Australia in recent weeks, but some cities have delayed their re-openings after hot spots of the respiratory disease began to emerge in areas like Melbourne. The country has had its international borders closed since March. Australia's first coronavirus death in a month happened on Wednesday when a man in his 80s died in Melbourne. The country's death toll rose to 103 as a result.