Huge Novak Djokovic twist in Ash Barty's Australian Open triumph
Ash Barty's Australian Open triumph has proven a huge win for a tournament that threatened to be derailed by Novak Djokovic's deportation.
Tennis Australia were seemingly desperate for Djokovic to play in the Melbourne Park grand slam, fearful that a lack of big-name superstars would affect TV ratings and ticket sales.
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With Roger Federer and Serena Williams not making the trip to Australia due to respective injuries, the cancellation of Djokovic's visa was a huge blow for Australian Open officials.
But the remarkable title triumphs of Ash Barty and doubles champions Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis has provided a huge cash boost for Tennis Australia.
After emptying its cash reserves of $80 million and taking out a $40 million loan to stage the 2021 event at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, TA had hoped this year's edition would help replenish its coffers.
And while TA boss Craig Tiley revealed on Sunday that the 2022 tournament will still lose money due to a government-enforced cap on crowds, he predicted Barty's win would help them emerge from the pandemic with no debt.
"We were restricted this year to 50 per cent (crowd capacity) for most of the event," Tiley told AAP.
"We're now at 80 per cent but still it's pretty late - but we'll take anything.
"I think we'll still lose money this year but our recovery's started and when we get to 2023 we'll bounce back real fast and we'll put ourselves back in a very positive position."
Barty's drought-breaking victory is central to TA's financial recovery after she became the first Aussie in 44 years to win their home grand slam.
"We put a lot of infrastructure over the last years in building the product and we've enjoyed during Covid an exponential increase in (playing) participation," Tiley said.
"That's not our survey - that's the government's survey - so it's comparative to everything. So that's been great.
"But now we've got the marketing vehicle with Ash's success and we can match that with the infrastructure we have in place and we'll see really a strong growth in our sport and ongoing growth in it.
"It's a beautiful sport to play - we've been saying it for boys and girls and especially for little girls who want to be like Ash. So we're so proud of her and this will really accelerate us into another level of participation."
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Barty’s final had a peak TV audience of 4.2 million - a record for a women's final at the Australian Open
And despite not starting until 10pm, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis' final hit a peak of 3.1 million - also a record for a men’s doubles final.
Australian Open's huge win despite Novak Djokovic scandal
The Djokovic saga saw TA endure a turbulent build-up and start to the 117th Open.
But it will be remembered as one of the greatest on record after Barty broke a 44-year title drought, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis won an all-Australian doubles men's final and Nadal claimed a men's record 21st major.
"It was a tough start but at the end of the day we just put our heads down and kept on working day in and day out to make it a great event and it ascended absolutely perfectly," Tiley said.
"Having an Australian champion and the (Nadal v Daniil Medvedev men's final) match going is more than we could have asked for."
Tiley refused to be drawn back into the Djokovic saga when asked if such desperate measures to have the World No.1 playing while unvaccinated were worth it.
"My job is to bring the best players into the country," he said.
"I don't want to dig up stuff that's really old news. We'll do a full event debrief where we'll be able to look at that and at a bunch of different things.
"Not only are we the ones that are going to learn lessons, everyone's going to learn lessons from this, I think governments as well."
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