June 24, 2020 / 5:27 AM / 11 days ago

Tennis-Australia to stage pro series at closed stadiums

MELBOURNE, June 24 (Reuters) - Tennis Australia will give local professionals a chance to earn income while global tours remain suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic when the UTR Pro Tennis Series starts in Sydney on Saturday, TA CEO Craig Tiley said on Wednesday.

Players will compete for A$450,000 ($312,000) in the series, with matches taking place at closed stadiums and under strict biosecurity protocols in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

Tiley said in a statement players had to be given the chance to earn prize money in a sport they had devoted their lives to.

“Our team has put an enormous amount of time and effort into the planning of these events, and have worked closely with the authorities and tennis staff on the ground to ensure they are run according to strict local biosecurity protocols,” he said.

On-court personnel would be limited with a chair umpire, minimal line judges and no ball-kids. Players would bring their own towels and be encouraged to shower off-site, TA said.

The first phase of the Series will run until August, with the possibility of extending further depending on the resumption of the global tours.

The elite men’s ATP and women’s WTA circuits will resume in August after they were halted in March as nations closed borders and imposed lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.

Professional tennis has been under the microscope with the cancellation of the Adria Tour in the Balkans, where world number one Novak Djokovic and several top players competed before testing positive for COVID-19.

The U.S. Open, the next Grand Slam on the calendar, will be staged without fans from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 as scheduled in New York.

$1 = 1.4407 Australian dollars Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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