At the end of December, it was announced that Roger Federer would be skipping the Australian Open.
Initially, Federer's lack of match fitness was provided as the sole reason, but it didn't take long for some more tidbits of information to filter through various media channels.
One such bit of info was that Australia's strict quarantine measures also played a part in Federer's decision to give the Sunshine Slam a miss. Hardly surprising.
Speaking to the Brazilian website Band Sports, former pro and now Head of Player Liaison for Tennis Australia, Andre Sa, revealed he had spoken to Federer on the phone about his participation in Melbourne.
According to Sa, alongside his fitness, the draconian quarantine rules, enforced by a government that has become increasingly authoritarian over the last decade, were also a major reason to give Melbourne Park a hard pass.
While the players will be allowed to leave their hotel rooms for five hours every day during quarantine to practice, that doesn't extend to the player's entourages. That apparently would not work with Mirka and their four children who would be couped in a hotel room for 14 days.
The main reason was the quarantine. I talked to him a month ago, and he had two options. He could come with the whole family and quarantine them. The problem is that Mirka (Federer's wife) and her children couldn't leave the room. They would have to stay 14 days in the room. The exception is only for players. He could go out, train, and come back, but the family couldn't. Mirka did not approve of the idea.
The other option would be for him to come alone. Only there would be at least five weeks away from family and children. And he said: “Dude, 39, four kids, 20 Grand Slams. I am no longer in a position to be away from my family for five weeks.” Andre Sa, Head of Player Liaison for Tennis Australia
Where Will Federer Start His 2021 Season?
That decision raises the question of where Federer will start his 2021 season. Virtually all of the Western World is following the same playbook regarding travel restrictions, flawed PCR testing requirements and quarantine rules. So which events can Federer take part in?
One likely start would be in Dubai, where the Swiss is currently practising. That ATP 500 is scheduled to take place on 15th March.
Given that's two months away, what about before then assuming Federer is ready to play competitively?
Neighbouring Qatar also hosts the Qatar ExxonMobil Open the week before but are back to back tournaments realistic on the comeback trail? Probably not.
Rotterdam? That would mean a trip back to Europe, but given Federer is an EU Citizen that shouldn't be too problematic assuming the Netherlands doesn't bring in stricter border controls or quarantine rules.
Hopefully, whatever happens, the restrictions don't limit where Federer can play this season, and we will see him at several events, including the grass courts of Halle and Wimbledon.
But with governments seemingly hell-bent on sticking to measures that have yet to produce any evidence they work despite being enforced for nearly a year, it's difficult to foresee the Swiss playing as much as he'd like to after missing virtually all of last season.
Where do you think Federer will kick off his 2021 season? Let me know in the comments.