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Organisers had hoped to stage it over four days, from June 23-26, at its new regular home of Liverpool Cricket Club in Aigburth.
The tournament is traditionally seen as a warm-up event ahead of Wimbledon but this year the Grand Slam championships are having to be played under Covid restrictions and that’s had a serious knock-on effect for Liverpool.
Anders Borg, the man behind Liverpool International Tennis Tournament, says they were left with no option but to delay until summer once they heard about the Wimbledon plans.
“The way the Lawn Tennis Association has structured everything for the players around Wimbledon meant they had to be in a bubble during the run-up to the tournament and that made it impossible to create a similar kind of environment for us,” he explains.
“It would mean that the players would spend 22 hours in their hotel room and only be let outside to play their matches. To get players to come to Liverpool and then force them into a room like that would be a bit like putting them in a prison. They wouldn’t have done it and it goes against everything our tournament is about.
“I think at Wimbledon, if it’s going to be that strict, they will find some of the players will say it’s not worth it so even they might struggle.”
The Liverpool tournament has brought some of the game’s biggest stars to the city over the past 20 years and, although it had to cancelled in 2020, Anders was optimistic that the timing for this year would be perfect. The June 23-26 dates coincided nicely with the third stage in Boris Johnson’s roadmap of restriction easing.
A limited number of tickets went on sale in February and there had been a hugely positive response from tennis fans keen to get out and see their favourite sport again. Ladies Day on the Friday had already sold out.
Anders says those ticket holders will now be offered a refund or the chance to transfer them to the new dates in August.
Initially, he is planning for two days – August 19 and 20 – although he says there’s a possibility of adding Saturday 21 depending on how the Covid unlocking goes.
And if things go well then there could be more tickets available as social distancing eases too.
The focus of the two days will be a crowd-pleasing combination of rising stars plus legends, adds Anders.
“It will be a competitive event focused more on up-and-coming local and international talent, like we have done in previous years,” he explains. “That’s always been a big part of the tournament and people like it.”
As for the organiser himself, he’s currently in Norway awaiting his own jab and looking forward to being back in the city that’s become like a second home.
“I have yet to be vaccinated because they won’t allow the AstraZeneca vaccine here so we’ve been dependent on the Pfizer which has caused big delays.
“I used to come to Liverpool at least twice a month to set up everything and to talk to sponsors and I love being in Liverpool. I haven’t been there now for 15 months and I miss it, but I should be able to come over very soon.
“The weather in August will hopefully be great so I really think it’ll be a good time and a celebration of tennis and live sport being back again.
“For 2021 we just have to look at our options and do the best we can to give everybody a great day out and then hopefully the world will be back to normal by next summer.”
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