Former Australian Open boss salutes Tiley

·2-min read

Former Australian Open boss Paul McNamee has saluted Craig Tiley for his colossal effort in staging the season's opening tennis grand slam during the global pandemic.

McNamee, the Open tournament director from 1988 until Tiley took over in 2006, said Tennis Australia deserved huge credit for somehow forging ahead with the Melbourne major despite the tough coronavirus restrictions in Australia.

"It's been six, eight months of torture really for Craig and the organising team. I know how hard they've been working to pull this off with the restrictions that are so tough here," said McNamee.

"In a way, you can't imagine it would have been easier in Paris or New York but over there it's kind of acceptable if there's some outbreak (during the French and US Opens).

"It's a manageable situation in terms of PR. I mean, a little bit better. They both did a great job.

"Here, if there's one case it's catastrophic.

"They've done an amazing job to kick-start this year."

Having managed to get the players to Australia on charter flights, Tiley and the Victorian government came under particularly heavy pressure to cancel the Open after 72 players were forced into 14 days of hard quarantine just three weeks out from its rescheduled February 8 start.

In addition to Tiley juggling his other myriad of commitments, McNamee revealed how the tournament director held conference calls with the players every night while in quarantine.

"Every single night at 7.30," McNamee said.

"So that was a pretty good effort and I think the players rated the fact that he fronted up every night and sometimes with some bad news.

"This was not a walk in the park, what he's gone through, and it's horrible bad luck that the crowds are not here for a few more days (during Victoria's five-day lockdown).

"It's horrible bad luck and I really, really hope they come back for the women's semis on Thursday and the men's semis Thursday night.

"This tournament deserves crowds for the semis and finals."

McNamee recalled how a flood on centre court on the day before the 1995 women's final - caused by a blocked storm drain - had been the biggest crisis he dealt with during his reign as Open chief.

"That was the hardest thing I had to face," he said.

"It was a really difficult situation to manage - but it came and went in 24 hours.

"This has been a long time. They're really doing it tough because you don't know what fire's going to come next.

"They've done a remarkably good job."