Australian Open boss Craig Tiley slams calls to move tournament date

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Australian Open boss Craig Tiley slams calls to move tournament date

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has dismissed suggestions the event should be moved to another date, while conceding the international tennis season is too long.

There are consistently calls to move the season-opening major to a different time of year to avoid Australia’s fierce heat, in addition to giving players more time to prepare following the brief off-season.

The tournament has been hit by high-profile withdrawals in the past few days, with men’s world number one Carlos Alcaraz and two-time women’s champion Naomi Osaka ruled out.

Tiley slammed a News Corp report at the weekend calling for the Australian Open’s rescheduling, but acknowledged the length of the season needed to be reviewed.

“I did read that [News Corp report], I thought it was absolutely ridiculous, a bizarre claim,” Tiley said.

“You talk to every player, this is the season. It starts in January. It starts here in Australia.

“It finishes with Davis Cup late on the men’s side and not as late on the women’s side but I do think it’s a long season. We’ve been talking about that for a long time.

“But Australia is the summer, Australia is January and this event is — from the players’ perspective — one of their favourite places to play.

“They’re coming here earlier, we’re now seeing players here for six weeks, for seven weeks and the preparation for the Australian summer is very normalised. They know what they need to do.”

A young man in a yellow shirt and white cap with a tennis racquet in front of a crowd.
Alex de Minaur enjoys playing the Australian Open in January.(AAP Image: Steven Markham)

Australian star Alex de Minaur said it was “no secret” the tennis calendar was long, but he relished the January start.

“You play tournaments throughout the whole year, you finish quite late. That depends on your schedule and everything,” he said.

“If there was a bit more time for an off-season, I’m sure a lot of players would like that. But at the same time we’re kind of used to it.

“I’ve done it for a couple years where you finish quite late and then you get right into the midst of things.

“There’s times along the year where you can choose to take a little bit of time off and that’s probably the smartest thing to do. So I’ll be looking at that.”

Many competitors face a gruelling change in weather conditions, arriving from winter in Europe and the United States, but de Minaur said it was up to players to organise their preseason and acclimatise to the heat.

Tiley addresses COVID situation

Tiley confirmed players would no longer be required to report positive COVID-19 tests but would be encouraged to stay away if ill.

“We follow the guidelines and we’ve made it clear to the players and our staff — over 12,000 staff — that if anyone is feeling unwell, to stay at home,” he said.

“Not dissimilar to the cricket, there would potentially be players who compete with COVID.”

A Serbian male professional tennis player stretches to play a forehand.
Novak Djokovic will contest the Australian Open for the first time in two years.(AAP: Matt Turner)

Tiley also announced nine-time champion Novak Djokovic would play Nick Kyrgios in an exhibition match on Rod Laver Arena on Friday night, ahead of the tournament beginning on Monday.

It will be Djokovic’s first match at Melbourne Park since he won the men’s singles title in 2021.

He missed last year’s tournament after being deported from Australia in the wake of his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Tiley said he expected Melbourne Park crowds to welcome Djokovic back in the same way spectators warmly responded to the former world number one at the Adelaide International.

“I’ve sat down with Novak a few times during the course of the year,” he said.

“We’ve spoken a fair bit over the last week, he really enjoyed his experience in South Australia and he was welcomed. This week he’s going to participate in some events.”

AAP/ABC

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