Australian tennis chief praises staff for ‘unbelievable job’ despite Novak Djokovic visa saga

 Australian tennis chief praises staff for ‘unbelievable job’ despite Novak Djokovic visa saga

The director of the Australian Open has defended the organisation for doing an “unbelievable job”, despite the bitter row over whether Novak Djokovic can play.

Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia, said in the video to staff that he couldn’t speak publicly because of the ongoing legal dispute over the player’s status, but said they had done everything possible to ensure the viability of the tournament.

“There’s a lot of finger pointing going on and a lot of blaming going on, but I can assure you our team has done an unbelievable job and have done everything they possibly could according to all the instructions that they have been provided,” he said. 

In the video message, published in News Corp newspapers on Saturday, Mr Tiley went on to state: “There’s been a circumstance that relates to a couple of players, Novak particularly… in a situation that is very difficult.

“We’re a player-first event. We’re working closely with Novak and his team, and others and their team, that are in this situation.”

Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia, warned that ‘there’s a lot of finger pointing going on’ in the wake of the dispute

Credit: JOEL CARRETT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Tennis Australia and the government of the state of Victoria, where the Australian Open is played, are blaming confusion over the precise definitions for the chaos now surrounding the tournament.

There have been claims Tennis Australia, which is still hoping Djokovic will be allowed to defend his crown at the tournament when it starts a week on Monday, gave incorrect interpretations to players about the acceptable grounds for an exemption. 

That included the interpretation that having had a coronavirus infection within the previous six months would qualify.

Tennis Australia was forced to emphasise that it never knowingly misled players and had always urged players to be vaccinated, after a document from the organising body was leaked apparently advising players on ways to enter the country with a medical exemption from vaccination.

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“We have always been consistent in our communications to players that vaccination is the best course of action – not just as the right thing to do to protect themselves and others, but also as the best course of action to ensure they could arrive in Australia,” it said in a statement. “We reject completely that the playing group was knowingly misled.”

Tennis Australia’s advice was based on that published on a federal government website, to which it had been referred by the federal health minister, the statement added.

However, the federal government released a letter showing it wrote to Tennis Australia in November saying that prior infection with Covid-19 was not necessarily grounds for exemption in Australia, as it was elsewhere.

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