Australian Open officials commit to big move amid January 26 uproar

Tennis Australia says the Australian Open will focus on women's tennis on January 26, as debate continues over sports on Australia Day.

Fans hold up Australian flags at the Australian Open in 2018 during a match played by Nick Kyrgios.
Fans hold up Australian flags at the Australian Open in 2018 during a match played by Nick Kyrgios. (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

Australia Day will not officially be recognised by the Australian Open this year, with the tournament preferring to focus on marquee women's semi-final match-ups. The move comes after Indigenous cricketer Ashleigh Gardner expressed frustration with the scheduling of a women's T20 International on January 26.

While the national anthem will be played prior to the evening's matches on Thursday, Tennis Australia has confirmed the Australian Open will not be proceeding with any official celebration of the public holiday. Both women's semi-finals are scheduled to be played on Australia Day.

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The Australian Open has held a variety of special occasions to make the event as welcoming as possible, including the First Nations day hosted by Ash Barty and Yvonne Goolagong during the first week of the tournament. A pride day and All-Abilities day are also scheduled for the second week of play.

In a statement, Tennis Australia said the decision had been taken in order to be as respectful as possible of all views regarding January 26. The Australia Day parade has also been called off, now for the third year in a row.

“We are mindful there are differing views, and at the Australian Open we are inclusive and respectful of all,’’ Tennis Australia said. “We acknowledge the historical significance and deep spiritual connection our First Peoples have to this land, and recognise this with a Welcome to Country on stadium screens prior to both the day and night session daily.’’

Australian Open rules out January 26th acknowledgements

Gardner expressed her reservations about playing on January 26 earlier in the week, saying the date marked the 'beginning of genocide, massacres and dispossession'. The 25-year-old is Australia's second Indigenous cricketer.

“Unfortunately this year the Australian women’s cricket team has been scheduled to play a game on the 26th of Jan which certainly doesn’t sit well with me as an individual but also all the people I’m representing,” she tweeted.

“For those who don’t have a good understanding of what that day means it was the beginning of genocide, massacres and dispossession.”

Ashleigh Gardner is pictured centre as Australian teammates rush to congratulate her on a wicket.
Indigenous cricketer Ashleigh Gardner has expressed frustration over Cricket Australia's scheduling of an international T20 on January 26th. (Photo by Albert Perez - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images) (Cricket Australia via Getty Imag)

No Australian women's team has played on the 26th since 2016, while the men's team haven't played on Australia Day since 2019. It has been reported that Cricket Australia's decision to schedule the women's T20I against Pakistan that day has been met with criticism from other players behind closed doors.

“My culture is something I hold close to my heart and something I’m always so proud to speak about whenever asked,” Gardner wrote. “When I take the field for this game I will certainly be reflecting and thinking about all of my ancestors and peoples’ lives who changed from this day.”

She had support from former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie. He said much of the debate around January 26th ignored the fact that Australia Day has a short history on the date.

“A day in which all Australians can celebrate would be my preference,’’ Gillespie said. “What a lot of people don’t realise is that history shows Australia Day has not always been celebrated on January 26. The conversations need to continue to explore an alternative.’’

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