Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley says “forever changing circumstances” and “miscommunication” with the federal government were the main reasons behind the Novak Djokovic saga that plagued this year’s Australian Open.
Most important points:
- Craig Tiley claims Tennis Australia has asked for clarification from the federal government several times in the run-up to the Australian Open
- But he says that because of the Omicron wave, there was “a lot of contradiction and complexity with information”
- He confirmed that Djokovic is not suing the organization and is likely to return to Australia next year
In an exclusive conversation with ABC journalist Catherine Murphy on News Breakfast on Sunday, Tiley claimed that Tennis Australia had repeatedly sought clarification from federal authorities, but that the evolving nature of the Omicron variant meant “there was a lot of contradiction and complexity with information”.
A Nov. 29 letter from Federal Health Secretary Greg Hunt to Craig Tiley clearly stated that previous infection of COVID-19 would not be grounds for exemption from vaccination requirements for quarantine-free travel.
“It was an incredibly challenging environment,” Tiley said.
“One or two pieces of communication don’t define all the amounts of communication that went through to the event.
“We knew we were going to have a tough time and so there was a lot of contradiction and complexity with information.
“And that’s why we as an organization have continued to look for clarity so that we can get to where we are now: we are halfway through what has been an incredible seven days, not just of tennis, but of our fans who love it and players are also very comfortable and love it too.”
In his first non-network interview since last week’s lawsuit that resulted in Novak Djokovic, the world’s number one, being deported from Australia on the recommendation of federal immigration minister Alex Hawke, Tiley avoided answering directly. questions about rule changes around previous infection as grounds for exemption .
Djokovic said he thought he entered Australia under the rules after being given a waiver by Tennis Australia’s Chief Medical Officer in late December.
“Even just in the past week since [the ruling]”Things have changed regarding the response to the pandemic,” Tiley reiterated during the interview.
“We were at the beginning of Omicron and so we were constantly looking for clarity, and there was a lot of complexity and contradiction of information before, after and it’s still going on.
“As we do every year, we have [will] go and see what we did well, what we can do better, what can we do that will propel us to an incredible 2023.”
Despite Tennis Australia being “the first global sports entertainment company to host an event in the midst of a pandemic” where they brought in “about a thousand players and coaches” for the 2021 Australian Open, Tiley said this was “a changing environment none of us have seen before.” experienced”.
When asked if there was internal pressure from the Tennis Australia board to consider superstar players like Djokovic for the event, Tiley again declined.
“Any pressure to get players here is an annual pressure. It happens every year.
“Tennis is different from other sports: we don’t employ any players, so we have to provide them with an environment that they absolutely love – and they do. This is their favorite place to play.
“For us, it’s always about having the best players so we can have the best matches, the best showcase of our great city, and we also recognize that everyone in the city has been through a rough time.”
Tiley also confirmed that Djokovic would not sue Tennis Australia after reports suggested the deported player was seeking legal avenues to cover his court and travel expenses.
“No,” Tilly said.
“There will be a lot of reports on different things, but we are in a position because we are now focused on delivering an event, and we will continue to deliver a great event.”
Asked if Djokovic will return to the event next year, despite the possibility that his visa could be revoked for up to three years, Tiley confirmed that Djokovic will likely return, pending the player’s own decision.
“Yes,” he said.
“Obviously he has to play this year, but that will be his intention.
“In the end he is the number one player in the world and he really loves the Australian Open.”