Australian Open boss Craig Tiley has defended Tennis Australia's decision of enforcing on all players ahead of the hardcourt swing Down Under. After Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev suggested last week that playing multiple tournaments in a bubble would be preferable to undergoing quarantine in different locations, Tiley responded that the risk of such a move would be too great.
Craig Tiley, a retired college tennis coach, has been associated with Tennis Australia since 2005. The 59-year-old served as the Director of the Australian Open until 2013, after which he took up the role of the tournament's CEO.
Ever since then Tiley has been a very prominent figure in the tennis world, particularly around the time of the first Slam of the year. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday, the South African explained why the organizers decided to impose a 14-day hard quarantine on the players before they could participate in the Australian Open.
"We made a decision up front that we didn’t want any athlete to not have a chance to compete because they’re either a close contact or they’re positive," Tiley said. "The only way to do that was to put them into a quarantine program."
The decision, though faced with many obstacles at first, eventually turned out to be successful as all the athletes who had entered the Australian Open were able to compete in the tournament. The only player who tested positive during the quarantine was Spain's Paula Badosa, who still competed in the event after spending additional time in quarantine.
Hoping someone doesn't infect others in a bubble is a risky proposition: Craig Tiley
Craig Tiley also spoke about the risks of having a bubble instead of quarantine, the way many sporting events around the world have preferred. Tiley asserted that the 2021 summer has been the most difficult and challenging one in his time at the Australian Open so far.
The 59-year-old admitted that working alongside the Victorian government health officials and other relevant authorities was tougher than anticipated. However, he insisted that they took the right decision given the risks involved in the alternative.
“Going into a bubble and hoping that someone doesn’t infect others in the bubble is a very, very risky proposition,” Tiley said.
Craig Tiley added that the new, more infectious mutations of coronavirus discovered in the UK, Brazil and South Africa forced them to arrive at the decision to call the players early and force them into a hard-quarantine. But he also admitted that that may not be an option for other sporting events, and that they may have their reasons to stick with a bubble.
"Now some [other sporting events] may have that (a bubble) as the only option … but then they’ve just got to accept the fact that there’s going to be officials, players and entourages that are going to be positive and others are going to be close contacts," Tiley said.
All said and done, however, Craig Tiley and Tennis Australia can breathe a sigh of relief knowing their decision was the correct one. The 2021 Australian Open has been conducted successfully, with only the final round of the tournament left.