Australian Open boss Craig Tiley has warned fans that if they 'taunt' 21-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic over his vaccination drama from 2022 they will be removed from the stadium. Plenty of the the hype surrounding this year's Australian Open is the return of nine-time winner Djokovic after his visa debacle last year.
The tournament was the centre of worldwide attention after Djokovic was denied entry into Australia and deported over concerns regarding his vaccination status. A year later, Djokovic has been warmly welcomed back to Australia and is ready to extend his record streak at Melbourne Park.
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However, Australian Open boss Tiley is clearly concerned that some members of the crowd could take exception to Djokovic's appearance at the tournament due to the drama surrounding last year. Melbourne was mandated to the world's longest lockdown during Covid-19 restrictions and Tiley has made it clear that anyone that crosses the line in the crowd will be booted from the stadium.
“If they disrupt the enjoyment of anyone else – boom, they are out,’’ he told The Herald Sun. “We don’t want them on site. They can stay away or we will kick them out.’’
Tiley admitted security would be on the look out for troublemakers, but said there was no specific 'boo policy' in place.
Historically, Djokovic has always received mixed receptions from the crowd at grand slams. He has talked about using this as motivation in the past. However, it remains unclear what type of reception Djokovic will receive from the local public when he steps out on court at Melbourne Park for the first time since his vaccination drama.
Craig Tiley hits out over Australian Open claims
Earlier in the week, Tiley was forced to hit back at claims the Australian Open could be shuffled to a different period in the ATP and WTA calendar due to increasing workloads for players.
Aussie Alex de Minaur raised the concern over the length of the tennis season, which is taking its toll on the players.
The Australian Open was floated in tennis circles as a potential to move to a period in the season.
However, Tiley quickly rubbished the concerns even though he agreed with de Minaur.
"Alex has a good point about the length of the season. The sport does need to get together and look at the length of it. It finishes with Davis Cup late on the men's side and not as late on the women's side but I do think it's a long season. We've been talking about that for a long time," Tiley said.
"But Australia is the summer, Australia is January and this event is, from the players' perspective, one of their favourite places to play. They're coming here earlier, we're now seeing players here for six weeks, for seven weeks and the preparation for the Australian summer is very normalised - they know what they need to do."
Djokovic heads in as heavy favourite to lift his 10th Australian Open title, while reigning champion Rafa Nadal has increased the intensity of his training sessions in a bid to defend his crown.
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