For the first time in Grand Slam history, the Australian Open qualifying tournament will take place not only off-site, but in another country – two of them. The women’s side of qualifying will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and the men’s in Doha, Qatar.
128 players on both the men and women’s sides will compete for the 16 final spots at the Australian Open.
Tennis Australia is expected to cover the additional costs of travel incurred by players who qualify in the Middle East and are then eligible to fly to Australia.
"From the beginning of all our planning for the Australian Open, our objective has been to provide the players with as many competition opportunities," said Australian Open Tournament Director, Craig Tiley.
On the home soil front, 21 Australians will be vying for a spot to compete in their own back yard.
Kimberly Birrell, who has a protected ranking of 158, and made the third round at Melbourne in 2019, will look to recapture some of her great form from a couple of years ago by qualifying.
Ellen Perez, Seone Mendez, Abbie Myers, Storm Sanders, Ivana Popovic, Olivia Gadecki, Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz and Alexandra Bozovic make up the other women representing Australia in Dubai.
Matt Ebden (former World No. 39), who hasn’t played any ATP events since February, will be on a quest to reach his ninth Australian Open main draw. This may be the 33-year-olds last chance to find himself in the top 100 again, giving Ebden extra motivation on the hard courts.
Bernard Tomic will also be looking to reignite his career by qualifying in Qatar. Despite sustaining a back injury while competing in the UTR in Brisbane last year, Tomic will look to (hopefully) put his best foot forward at the event. It is no surprise the World No. 228 did not receive a wildcard from Tennis Australia due to the grim relationship between the two parties.
Max Purcell, Andrew Harris, Jason Kubler, Akira Santillan, Blake Mott, Tristan Schoolkate, Rinky Hijikata and Dane Sweeny round out the men looking for a spot in the field of 128 at Melbourne Park.
“It’s been an unusual year for all players, and the best results will come to players who can quickly adapt and translate all of their hard work from pre-season and training into competitive match play,” Tennis Australia high performance coach Wally Masur said.
On the international side of things, Australian Open and Roland Garros doubles champion and World No. 115, Timea Babos, will look to carry her winning ways onto the singles court. Former Australian Open semi-finalist and crowd favourite, World No. 141, Genie Bouchard will also be vying to make it into the main draw of the tournament she once found success in.
American young gun and former World No. 35, Cici Bellis, is a notable entrant that will put her best foot forward in order to be welcomed at Melbourne Park.
17-year-old and World No. 141, Carlos Alcaraz, who was voted 2020 ATP newcomer of the year, as well as the 20-year-old World No. 161, Hugo Gaston, who made the fourth round of last year’s French Open, will be the fresh talent of the tournament.
Former top 15 players and tour veterans ErnestsGulbis, Viktor Troicki and Ivo Karlovic will look to rely on their experience to make it back into the main draw at the Australian Open.
Previous World No. 5, Tommy Roberdo, will hope to make his way back to the courts at Melbourne by qualifying in Qatar.
Despite managing to get the qualifying up and running, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Tiley and his tournament overseas.
The Herald Sun revealed that some players have been hotel bound much longer than anticipated.
Players have not allowed to leave their room until a negative COVID-19 test has been received by the tournament; and results have been significantly delayed.
Furthermore, players have had issues booking practice courts, therefore in some cases have not been able to adapt to the heat and adequately prepare for match play.
Tennis Australia said in a statement to the Herald Sun: “The local organisers have done an incredible job preparing everything for AO qualifying in a very short space of time.
See all Australian first round matchups below:
A.Harris (AUS) VS R.Bemelmans (BEL)
M.Purcell (AUS) VS H.Gaston (FRA)
[WC] D.Sweeny (AUS) VS M.Copil (ROU)
[WC] M.Ebden (AUS) VS [WC] J.Kubler (AUS)
B.Mott (AUS) VS E.Ymer (SWE)
[WC] A.Santillan (AUS) VS  M.Huesler (SUI)
[WC] R.Hijikata (AUS) VS C.Eubanks (USA)
B.Tomic (AUS) VS  J.Kovalik (SVK)
[WC] T.Schoolkate (AUS) VS G.Andreozzi (ARG)
[WC] H.Bourchier (AUS) VS T.Griekspoor (NED)
[WC] J.P.Smith (AUS) VS  P.Lorenzi (ITA)
[WC] S.Sanders (AUS) VS  K.Juvan (SLO)
[WC] A.Bozovic (AUS) VS  G.Minnen (BEL)
E.Perez (AUS) VS C.Dolehide (USA)
[WC] O.Gadecki (AUS) VS L.Salden (BEL)
[WC] A.Myers (AUS) VS  E.Bouchard (CAN)
[WC] C.Kempenaers-Pocz (AUS) VS  V.Tomova (BUL)
[WC] S.Mendez (AUS) VS M.Benoit (BEL)
[WC] I.Popovic (AUS)  L.Tsurenko (UKR)