Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley says he will not consider resigning amid the fallout from Novak Djokovic’s deportation saga.
Tiley’s appearances have been scarce since Djokovic’s visa saga unfolded, with Tennis Australia being accused by some of misinforming the world’s number one about his ability to enter the country despite not being vaccinated.
Speak with Nine, who owns the broadcasting rights to the Australian Open, Tiley has been repeatedly pressed for his involvement in the controversial lead-up to the tournament.
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He also said reports of Tennis Australia paying Djokovic’s travel and legal costs were “simply untrue”.
Tiley was audibly booed by some Australian Open participants when he made a rare appearance amid the fallout from Novak Djokovic’s deportation saga.
After Sam Stosur’s last singles match, Tiley appeared at the Kia Arena to offer her a gift and flowers – his announcement was followed by booing from an audible portion of the crowd.
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF TILEY’S INTERVIEW
Q: Have you or Tennis Australia done anything outside of the guidelines provided to you regarding Novak Djokovic?
Tiley: We’ve already covered those questions. Today we only focus on delivering day 4 and a great event. For example, you have seen how well the Aussies fared today. The feedback we get back from our fans on seeing the time they have is fantastic. So we’re looking forward to another 10 days of great tennis, and at some point there will be two great champions.
Q: Did Tennis Australia provide conflicting information about Novak?
Tiley: We’ve tackled that the same way, moving forward, focusing on the event and delivering a great two weeks of tennis. What we’re going to bring out for Melburnians over the next 10 days and when we’re done it’s going to be an event that we can look back on and be proud of, as far as everyone’s experience and the players’ experience as well.
Q: There are reports that Tennis Australia is funding Novak Djokovic’s legal and travel expenses, is that correct?
Tiley: I saw those reports today and we don’t really go into the details of the financial arrangements we have with players, but those reports are just not true.
Q: Okay, good to know. In hindsight, would you do anything different, Craig?
Tiley: Every year, we call this every year, we come to the end of the Australian Open, there are two champions holding the trophies and there are two champions holding up the trophies. There’s the women’s winner on Saturday night, the men’s winner on Sunday night, and we go back and get the whole team together and see what we’ve done over the year. We do this in the first place to plan for 2023, in this case. We spend weeks together evaluating what we’ve done, what we’ve done well, what we can do better, what we need to change, and that’s the process we go through every year and this year will be no different.
Q: Do you have or are you considering resigning?
Tiley: No. We recently released a statement. I am very focused today on delivering a great event. I’m proud to stand here and you can see what’s behind us, I’m proud of what the team has done and what we have delivered so far. We had four days of incredible tennis and great entertainment and we will have that for the next 10 days.
Q: There has been talk of being a lot less visible at this Open, have you heard that?
Tiley: I’ve heard that, but we’ve brought in 3,500 people from all over the world, over 100 countries, 560 players and brought them to Melbourne. Creating an event that connects the community. It was hard for Melburnians and Victorians, so for us to create and Victorians, so for us to create an event to connect everyone together, it takes a lot of work. Intense work. Much more than we normally would because we are doing it in the midst of this pandemic.
Q: One thing is getting all the players here, the other is testing protocols for them while they are here. We already had a player who tested positive when he left the tournament. Lots of discussion today in response to comments from some players about testing requirements. Can you clarify what Tennis Australia has for the players in terms of responsibilities and requirements, how the testing works?
Tilly: That’s a good question. Quite a bit has been written about that. Throughout the year, the players have traveled the world. There are protocols they had to follow to do that. Working closely with the men’s and women’s twos, we came up with a set of protocols that are stricter than their week in, week out travel. Arming in Australia, every player had to test, Australia, every player had to test, — enter Australia. On days five and seven they had to test. There are also mandatory symptomatic tests and every player gets a quick antigen kick every day that they can pick up at the hotel or on site. That’s really the program we’ve had. So far it works well and it worked. We are in a position where this is like I said on day 4 and we have another 10 days of great tennis. If you continue with the testing program, the physical distancing and if you wear the masks, you can see that the players are all wearing masks, constantly reminding them of hygiene and staying safe. Not only does it keep them safe, but it ensures we keep Victorians safe, which has been our goal from the start.