Up to 250 fans could be allowed for final rounds of Singapore Tennis Open

The week-long event at the OCBC Arena starts from Feb 22, 2021.
The week-long event at the OCBC Arena starts from Feb 22, 2021.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The upcoming ATP 250 Singapore Tennis Open will start on Monday (Feb 22) behind closed doors but up to 250 fans may be allowed for the semi-finals and final if there are no tournament-related positive coronavirus cases, among other factors like local transmissions, organisers said on Friday.

At least 200 players, staff and officials from overseas are expected for the week-long event at the OCBC Arena, with 50 players already in Singapore.

So far there have been no positive results, noted organising committee chairman and Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin.

He added: "The biggest risk right now is imported transmissions as you can see on a daily basis, all the Covid-19 cases you see largely have been imported. These people are travelling in from Australia and other parts of the world."

International players will be tested upon arrival here and isolated until they receive a negative test result. All players will undergo daily polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests throughout their stay in Singapore and will be further isolated in individual team bubbles. They must also use the TraceTogether token or app while here.

Similar protocols are in place for foreign officials and tournament staff. They will be divided into different bubbles to reduce interaction.

Additionally, local tournament staff, officials and volunteers are required to undergo daily antigen rapid tests (ART) and will only be allowed on-site after receiving a negative test result. They will be socially-distanced and have no physical contact with players.

Virtual press conferences and electronic line-calling are also in place while contingency plans have been made should a player or tournament staff test positive for Covid-19.

Lim said: "It's very important that when we host an international event like this, we're able to instil confidence not just in our partners but in the Singaporean public at large that in spite of the pandemic situation, we're able to comply with national protocols and minimise all risks associated with Covid-19."

Tennis fan Man Yong Le was excited by the news and said he would try to get a ticket if spectators are allowed. 

“After the WTA Finals left (in 2018), I thought tennis was going to die down (here) and I was quite bummed out but now it’s back and I’m super excited. Hopefully we get the chance to watch them live," said the National University of Singapore undergraduate, 23, who started playing tennis in 2014.

“Watching the tour go all over the world, it’s hard to imagine a place as small as Singapore having an ATP event so it’s very exciting and it’s a good start.”

The Republic has in recent months resumed international sports events. Mixed martial arts organisation One Championship has staged several live fights since Oct 9, with all involving overseas-based fighters.

Singapore also last month hosted the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang M2 World Championship that included 10 foreign e-sports teams.

The One fights and the M2 World Championship had strict protocols in place and while they saw several of the foreign participants test positive for the virus, the events proceeded with containment measures in place.

For the US$300,000 (S$398,634) Singapore Tennis Open, it will feature 28 singles players and 16 doubles pairs in the main draw, with 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic a confirmed entrant. Other stars include top seed Adrian Mannarino and Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka. The full list of players will be updated on Friday.

Singaporeans Shaheed Alam and Roy Hobbs have earned a wildcard to the qualifiers and will play their first match on Saturday.

Clement Leow, president of the Singapore Tennis Association, paid tribute to the government agencies and the ATP for "bringing this tournament to life" and added: "The international tournament is a good opportunity for our local talent to gain valuable experience by competing amongst some of the best players in the world."