Craig Tiley: ‘Worse-Case Scenario Is No AO’

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Tennis Australia chief executive and Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has conceded that next year’s annual summer of tennis “will be compromised” as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has grounded pro tennis since early March.

In an interview Wednesday with Australian Associated Press, Tiley expressed this bleak thought: “Worst-case scenario is no AO (Australian Open).

“Our best-case scenario at this point is having an AO with players that we can get in here with quarantining techniques and Australian-only fans.”

Since this year’s Australian Open, which took place against the backdrop of bushfires across portions of the Australian continent but was fortunate enough to have been staged, the global Covid-19 pandemic has affected each of the other Grand Slam tournaments. Wimbledon cancelled its fortnight for the first time since World War II; the French Open unilaterally moved its late-spring event out to late September; and as of now, while the US Open still plans to go ahead as scheduled in New York, it’s becoming clearer that it too will likely fall victim of the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown. Either the US Open will have to be played without spectators, moved to Indian Wells, or be cancelled all together.

Tiley, who is becoming resigned to both the ATP and WTA tours likely being grounded for the rest of the 2020 season due to international travel restrictions, is putting together a series of substantial contingency plans with a goal of saving next year’s Australian Open. He outlined them during his AAP interview:

“We’ve modeled the times we have to make decisions, dates we have to make decision, who it impacts, how it’s going to impact them,” Tiley said.

“We’ve done that for 670 staff. We’ve done that for all of our partners – our media partners, our sponsors and for all the governments and places we rent facilities (from).

“And now we’re working on the international playing group and getting them to understand what each of those scenarios are and what it means for them and how we can action it.”

The subject of Tiley’s comments was amplified by Tennis Channel commentator Mary Carillo, who during a round table discussion on Wednesday’s Tennis Channel Live, remarked: “This is a guy, in Tiley, who eight months out is already taking a very sober look at what’s happening with the world. The fact that there’s no cure, there’s no vaccine. I wish there were more leaders like Craig Tiley instead of everyone saying ‘look, we will decide in June.’ This guy is basically saying ‘we know how rough it is, we know how important it is to get this right.’”

Meanwhile, Tennis Australia soon will unveil plans for a domestic Pro Series for leading Australian players that potentially could be played across the country if state border restrictions allow.

Djokovic skirts hitting controversy

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic practiced on Monday in the coastal Spanish city of Marbella, where he has been quarantining with his family, as evidenced by an Instagram video shot by the 17-time Grand Slam champion using his cellphone as he hit. Djokovic posted a comment saying he was “so happy to play on clay … well, just for a bit with my phone in the hands.”

Guess what? It turns out that Djokovic jumped the gun. That’s because elite players apparently are not authorized to use club courts in Spain until May 11. However, according to Spanish-language daily El País, the hotel where Djokovic hit at says it gave him incorrect information and later apologized for the error.

Quarantine activities – Naomi Osaka

During an Instagram Live conversation this week with Venus Williams, two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka revealed how shes been spending her quarantine time in California.

“I’m kind of doing nothing. I’d did a serious leg workout a couple of days ago, and I’m still sore!” Osaka said, as quoted by the WTA Tour website. “I’m hitting, but I’m not working out – it’s more to make sure that I can still put the ball in the court. 

“I was reading Kobe’s book … and I’m thinking about re-reading (Andre) Agassi’s book, Open. It’s was a really good. I read it a lot during car rides to tournaments.”

Behind The Racquet – Pierre-Hugues Herbert

In his recent first-person essay for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet, France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert described the risks his family took when he was younger in order to advance his budding tennis career and the later rewards. “I have always been someone who loved team sports. I played football until I was 14 years old. I loved the fact that we were young kids playing for one another. I always played better when it was more than just me. It’s something I found in my doubles career, not being this egocentric player on the court. Between doubles, or having my family by my side, it has always been important to play for more than myself.”

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“When I was 13, my dad stopped working to travel with me full time. There was already pressure from not being too wealthy and now my father wasn’t making money. People from my hometown thought we were crazy. They watched my dad stop quit his job as a coach at the club to travel with me and they didn’t understand it. When I think back, I see what they saw. All I know is we saw a small a chance to have what we have now and we had to go for it. Even if you are top in the world as a kid, the chance of becoming a top professional tennis player is beyond a small percentage. My family took some big risks that paid off and what I achieved is for all of them. We made many big decisions. Our family is five in total, with an older sister and younger brother. This decision my dad made affected everyone. Not only was my family making less money, now my father was away from my siblings for long periods of time. There was a lot of pressure on the whole family to also keep up with the expenses of travel. Thankfully I had some help from sponsors, but that came with extra pressures. My dad traveled with me through the under 14,16 and 18 divisions. The balance felt completely different in the family. He was mostly just taking care of me. It was one of the toughest experiences for not only me, but my family. I was lucky to have my whole family so supportive and behind this project. My mom switched jobs and started to work at home so she had time to look after my brother by herself. When you are working towards something so large it is not only you, it wasn’t only my dad and I, my whole family was involved in the process. It was tough for me to deal with the idea that my brother, who is 15 months younger, was growing up without a father. It was the same with my sister as she was finishing up university and trying to enter the working world. No matter what I always tell people, I make sure they know my family was a big part of my journey even though my siblings think they didn’t do much, and my mom didn’t travel. Even after the struggles, we were united.” @pierrehuguesherbert Go to behindtheracquet.com for extended stories, podcasts and merch.

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