2021 Australian Open: When does it take place, high-profile absentees, TV channels, betting, prize money

Tennis Features
Rod Laver Arena Melbourne Park Australian Open

The 2021 Australian Open is just around the corner at we have all the information you need ahead of the season-opening Grand Slam at Melbourne Park.

When is the 2021 Australian Open?

After much debate about will it or won’t it happen, the 109th edition of the Australian Open was given the go-ahead by government and health officials to take place in 2021, but instead of the original January 18-31 slot, the date was pushed back to February 8-21.

Australian Open general overview

What about the venue for the season-opening Grand Slam…

Melbourne Park – which is housed in the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct – will once again play host to the Australian Open.

The venue has 35 outdoor tennis courts and Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Arena and Margaret Court Arena are the three main courts with each coming with its own retractable roof.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, a maximum of 30,000 spectators will be allowed to attend the tournament during the first eight days while up to 25,000 will be allowed in from the quarter-final onwards.

About the defending champions…

Novak Djokovic won a record-extending eighth Australian Open title in 2020, defeating Dominic Thiem 6–4, 4–6, 2–6, 6–3, 6–4 in the final. The win also took him to 17 Grand Slam titles and helped him to regain the world No 1 ranking.

Sofia Kenin was the surprise women’s champion as she won the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after beating Garbine Muguruza 4–6, 6–2, 6–2 in the final. American Kenin, who was ranked 14th, beat the likes of Ashleigh Barty and Coco Gauff en route to the final.

American Rajeev Ram and Great Britain’s Joe Salisbury are the men’s defending champions after they won their maiden Grand Slam as a pair last year while Timea Babos from Hungary and France’s Kristina Mladenovic won the women’s doubles. Barbora Krejikova from the Czech Republic and Croatia’s Nikola Mektic won the mixed doubles.

Who are absent from this year’s tournament?

Roger Federer and Andy Murray are the two biggest names missing from this year’s draw as the former is still recovering from knee injury three-time Grand Slam winner Murray tested positive for coroanvirus just days before he was due to depart to Australia.

American No 1 John Isner withdrew due to the quarantine restrictions in Australia.

On the women’s side, Kiki Bertens will miss the event due to an Achilles injury while American pair Madison Keys and Amanda Anisimova tested positive for Covid-19 before leaving for Australia.

What about the seeds?

Seeds are based on the ATP and WTA Rankings on February 1, which means Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are the top five seeds on the men’s side.

Novak Djokovic blowing kisses

Dan Evans will be the only British seed at No 30.

As for the WTA Rankings, Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka, Sofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina are the top five. 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams is down in 10th with British No 1 Johanna Konta at No 13.

Which players came through qualifying?

For the first time in Grand Slam history, the qualifying event was staged outside of Australia with Qatar and Dubai hosting the men’s and women’s tournaments respectively.

There were several notable qualifiers with former French Open finalist Sara Errani and 2020 US Open quarter-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova booking their places in the main draw.

Notable Australian Open qualifiers: From Tsvetana Pironkova and Francesca Jones to Bernard Tomic

Francesca Jones, who was once told by doctors she wouldn’t be able to play tennis, also secured her place in a Grand Slam for the first time.

Born with the rare genetic condition ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia, the British No 5 has overcome the odds to secure her place at Melbourne Park.

On the men’s side, controversial Australian Bernard Tomic as well as Viktor Troicki and Carlos Alcaraz will be in the draw.

Speaking of the main draw…

The main draw is set to take place on Thursday February 4 at about 18:00 local time (07:00 GMT) with the likes of Ashleigh Barty in attendance, but it will be a behind-closed doors event and footage will only be released after the event.

Which TV channels will broadcast the tournament?

Eurosport will once again be the go-to channel for the Australian Open in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe while ESPN and the Tennis Channel broadcast the hard-court tournament in North America.

Alexander Zverev playing cameraman

The BBC will provide commentary and text through BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and the BBC Sport website respectively while from the second week you will be able to catch highlights on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer and online.

Betting

Unsurprisingly Novak Djokovic is the clear favourite to win a record ninth title at Melbourne Park and the best odds you will get from the bookies is 7/5.

Interestingly, the bookmakers can’t quite separate Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev as they are all next best with 11/2 or 5/1.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev are outsiders at 14/1 and 16/1 respectively at Coral and if you are a big risk taker then Stan Wawrinka at 66/1 with the same bookie will no doubt interest you.

The women’s draw is often wide open and we have had five different winners the past five years and 2019 champion Naomi Osaka lead the way at 11/2 while world No 1 Ashleigh Barty is 9/1 at some places.

Aryna Sabalenka is one of the form players and the Belarusian is 9/1 at Bet365 with Serena Williams 10/1 to win a record-equalling 23rd Grand Slam title.

Defending champion Sofia Kenin is 12/1 along with French Open winner Iga Swiatek with Victoria Azarenka, Bianca Andreescu, Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova all 16/1.

What about the prize money?

Prize money will be A$71.5m (about £40m), which is the same as 2020, but the singles champions will receive smaller cheques compared to last year.

This year’s winners will boost their bank accounts by A$2.75m (roughly £1,5m) – a drop of more than 30%.

Full breakdown (A$1 = £0.56)

Round Men’s singles Women’s singles Men’s doubles Women’s doubles Mixed doubles
Winners £1,5m £1,5m £339,000 £339,000 £85,000
Runners-up
£847,000 £847,000 £191,000 £191,000 £48,000
Semi-finalists £480,000 £480,000 £113,000 £113,000 £25,000
Quarter-finalists £296,000 £296,000 £62,000 £62,000 £13,500
Fourth round £181,000 £181,000 N/A N/A N/A
Third round £121,000 £121,000 £37,000 £37,000 N/A
Second round £85,000 £85,000 £25,000 £25,000 £6,700
First round £56,000 £56,000 £17,000 £17,000 £3,500

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