Australian Open boss Craig Tiley remains supremely confident the Melbourne Park grand slam will proceed in January despite COVID-19 continuing to wreak havoc around much of the country.
With Tiley last week conceding the world's best tennis players wouldn't cop another fortnight in hotel quarantine, as they did before this year's Open, Australia's biggest and richest annual sporting event had been in doubt for 2022. But Tiley on Thursday revealed a plan for players to instead spend two weeks in a biosecure bubble before next year's event.
"There's a lot of time between now and when we get going but, at this point in time, we're planning on having a two-week bubble, where the players will be able to move freely between the hotel and the courts," Tiley said during a Nine Network marketing launch.
"They're protected, they're kept safe among themselves and safe from the community as well.
"And after those two weeks, they'll come out and be able to compete in the Australian Open in front of crowds."
Tiley said Open officials were working closely with the government and health authorities to determine exactly what the crowd capacity would be at Melbourne Park.
Fans were banned for much of the 2021 Open following a snap lockdown of Melbourne due to a COVID outbreak in the Victorian capital midway through the tournament.
This year's event was rescheduled to February because organisers were unable to secure government approval in time, but Tiley is hopeful the 2022 edition will return to its traditional timeslot in the second week of January.
He also hopes Australia reaches its target of vaccinating 80% of adults by November.
"That will certainly help the situation for the event in January," he said.
Meanwhile, world No. 1 Ash Barty has been given a challenging draw as she seeks to lift the US Open as the top seed - and she'll have to be wary from the get-go as her first-round opponent is former finalist Vera Zvonareva.
Barty, who will start favourite to lift her third grand slam title at Flushing Meadows when the event kicks off on Monday, has never played the 36-year-old Russian, who reached the final both in New York and Wimbledon in 2010.
The Muscovite mother has these days slipped to 101 in the world but as a former world No. 2 who's beaten Petra Kvitova this year still clearly demands the utmost respect from the Wimbledon champ.
The draw, made on Thursday, could see Barty, in supreme form after annexing her fifth title of the year last weekend in Cincinnati, face a second round tie against rising French star Clara Burel.
The last-32 would then potentially have her pitted against Russian Veronika Kudermetova, the No.29 seed who Barty's already beaten comfortably this year on the Roman clay.
In the last-16, her US friend and doubles partner Jen Brady, the Australian Open finalist, is projected to await as Barty seeks to make the quarter-finals in New York for the first time.
Then the last-eight may throw up a real blockbuster with last year's French Open champion Iga Swiatek, while Barty might have to fight past 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu in the semis.
She's seeded to meet No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in the final but the Belarusian might have to get past No.3 seed and reigning champ Naomi Osaka in the semifinal.
In the men's draw, top seed Novak Djokovic, seeking the first men's calendar year grand slam since the great Rod Laver in 1969, will start off against a qualifier but could, if all goes well, face an Aussie challenge down the road.
Australian No.1 Alex De Minaur, the 14th seed, meets American Taylor Fritz in a tough opener while Jordan Thompson has an equally demanding first round date with Italian Gianluca Mager.
But if the two Sydney friends manage to make the third round, they'll face each other - with Djokovic doubtless awaiting in the fourth round.
Djokovic's path could also include 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori in the third round, a Wimbledon final rematch with Matteo Berrettini in the quarters, another meeting with Zverev in the semis and a final with Daniil Medvedev.
Nick Kyrgios, who withdrew from this week's Winston-Salem Open to protect a knee problem, will face an uphill task in his opening round tie against Spain's No.18 seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
Yet the match of the first round looks set to be Britain's former champ Andy Murray up against the No.3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.