Australian Open boss' massive admission in Novak Djokovic furore

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Novak Djokovic, pictured here with Craig Tiley after winning the Australian Open in 2015.
Novak Djokovic poses with Craig Tiley after winning the Australian Open in 2015. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has spoken publicly for the first time about the Novak Djokovic visa debacle, admitting he'd love to see the World No.1 play at the Australian Open.

Djokovic's court fight to remain in the country and defend his Australian Open title went ahead on Monday after a late bid by federal government lawyers to delay the case.

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Speaking publicly for the first time about the ugly saga on Sunday night, Tiley refused to shift the blame for the fiasco that's left the Serbian star in immigration detention in Melbourne since Thursday morning.

The tournament director told the Nine Network he "would like to see him play the Australian Open", insisting Tennis Australia hadn't deceived players seeking medical exemptions.

The governing body has been accused of sending unvaccinated players the wrong information about obtaining medical exemptions.

Tiley said they'd remained in weekly contact with all levels of government "to ensure we were doing the right thing and we were on the right process with these exemptions".

"There was plenty of contradictory information, plenty of conflicting information and we were constantly seeking clarity from day one to ensure that one, we did the right thing and two, we were able to bring the players into the country," he said.

"All the information we had at the time, the knowledge we had at the time, was supplied to players.

"We're not going to lay the blame on anyone. There's much contradictory information ... it's because of the changing environment."

Craig Tiley, pictured here speaking to the media in Melbourne ahead of the 2021 Australian Open.
Craig Tiley speaks to the media in Melbourne ahead of the 2021 Australian Open. (Photo by Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images)

Craig Tiley denies knowingly misleading players

Tiley sent an internal video to Australian Open staff on Saturday, saying that the team had done "everything they possibly could".

Two letters sent by the Department of Health in November to Tiley reiterated that unvaccinated players couldn't use a Covid-19 infection within the last six months as grounds for a medical exemption when entering Australia.

News Corp also published an information sheet sent from Tennis Australia to players last month.

The letter outlined the grounds for medical exemptions for vaccinations, including a Covid-19 infection in the last six months - again at odds with the advice TA had received from government authorities.

But TA rejected that players were knowingly misled, and Tiley said organisers had followed "instructions".

"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," Tiley said.

On Monday, Djokovic's lawyers will argue that he met the criteria for a temporary exemption under Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines and that he was denied procedural fairness during the decision to revoke his visa.

Djokovic, who is likely to present to the hearing virtually, could be cross-examined by both the judge and the government's barrister.

How he responds will be crucial after documents were released by the Federal Court on Saturday, showing the Serb contracted Covid-19 on December 16 and was free of symptoms before he arrived in Australia.

with AAP

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