Australian Open rocked by shock resignation ahead of grand slam

·Sports Editor
·3-min read
Rod Laver Arena, pictured here during the Australian Open in 2020.
A general view of Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open in 2020. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The Australian Open's biosecurity manager has reportedly left his position just weeks out from the first grand slam of the year.

Leading tennis writer Ben Rothenberg revealed this week that Tom McDowell has resigned from his role with Tennis Australia.

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"Rough development for the mid-pandemic Australian Open," Rothenberg wrote on Twitter. 

"Tennis Australia's biosecurity manager Tom McDowell has just resigned, leaving TA just as players and their teams are starting to arrive Down Under."

Rothenberg pointed to McDowell’s LinkedIn page to reveal the exact details of his former job.

Those include: “Overseeing the development of biosecurity protocols for each functional area and providing advice, guidance and instruction to all areas of the business relation to Biosecurity Operational implementation."

The role also required McDowell to “lead the development of COVIDSafe procedures for each functional area, guiding and supporting managers to develop and implement processes which align with the goals of the COVIDSafe plan", and to “Define the scope and requirements for COVID testing and/or vaccination programs to minimise the risk of an outbreak impacting the event.”

Overseas players arrive Down Under for Australian Open

The timing of McDowell's resignation isn't exactly ideal for Tennis Australia, with players arriving Down Under this week for lead-up events ahead of the Australian Open.

All spectators, staff and players at the Melbourne Park grand slam must be double-vaccinated, or have a valid medical exemption.

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley recently admitted a "small percentage" of players and officials would be able to enter unvaccinated via medical exemptions.

But whether or not World No.1 Novak Djokovic is one of them remains to be seen.

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

The 20-time grand slam champion has repeatedly refused to reveal his vaccination status, with the general belief among the tennis world that he is awaiting word on a medical exemption.

"Everyone who is coming in is vaccinated and there will be a small percentage - a very small percentage - that will have a medical exemption," Tiley said.

"So if any player, fan (or) workforce is on site here, you're either vaccinated or you have a medical exemption that's approved and you're on the Australian Immunisation Register.

"That provides us with safety and an extra level of comfort on site."

Because of privacy protocols, anyone who receives a medical exemption will have that information withheld from the public.

"If Novak shows up at the Australian Open, he'll either be vaccinated or he'll have a medical exemption," Tiley said.

"(It's) his choice on his medical condition, it's his choice to keep personal and private like all of us would do with any condition we may or may not have.

"We are not going to force him or ask him to disclose that."

with AAP

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