Australian Open boss rejects calls for change to men's format

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley is seen here with Rafael Nadal at the 2020 Australian Open.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley says there will be no change to the 2021 format. Pic: Getty

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has brushed aside suggestions the format of the year's first grand slam could change in response to the COVID-19 situation.

As many as 72 players have been forced into 14 days hard lockdown after four more positive COVID-19 cases in Melbourne were linked to charter flights of tennis players and their entourages.

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Some of the sports biggest stars, including men's World No.1 Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are preparing for the Open in Adelaide, where they will play an exhibition on January 29.

The argument from some players in hard lockdown in Melbourne is that while they are unable to train outside on tennis courts while confined to their hotel rooms for two weeks, some of the leading players have the distinct advantage of not having to do so.

Japan's Taro Daniel, who is one of the 72 players confined to their hotel room in Melbourne, says tournament organisers should consider changing the men's format to the best-of-three sets, due to the disadvantages imposed by the coronavirus dilemma.

"A few players came up with the idea to bring it down to three sets this time, which I think would make a lot of sense," Daniel told the Herald Sun.

"Because even for guys who are able to train these two weeks, it's not optimal training.

"You're limited to two hours a day and one hour of gym – so five sets would be pretty brutal this time.

"I think Craig's (tournament director Craig Tiley) aware of it and I'm sure he's thought of it himself, but then obviously there's the whole historical, five-set thing they need to break down.

"I have no idea if they'll be able to do it or not, but I think perhaps they should."

Japan's Taro Daniel is pictured here returning a shot in a tennis match.
Taro Daniel has hit out at the disadvantages faced by those players in hard lock down. Pic: Getty

Daniel claims there is "resentment" amongst some players at the fact that some of the biggest stars can still prepare for the tournament adequately, while others are u able to do so.

“People in Adelaide are being able to hit with four people on court, so there’s some resentment towards that as well,” the World No.117 added.

“Tennis always has these very unfair treatments towards top players and lower players, especially during grand slams.

“The court time they get to hit usually is completely different … which I think, to a certain extent, they deserve, but especially during a crisis like this it gets even bigger.”

While Daniel's concerns are understandable, Tiley has rejected any suggestions that the Australian Open format will be changed.

"We're a Grand Slam at the end of the day and right now, three out of five sets for the men and two out of three sets for the women is the position we plan on sticking to," Tiley told Nine's Today Show.

The Australian Open boss says organisers were looking at measures that could be introduced so players aren't at a disadvantage, but hasn't elaborated about what they may entail.

Options being looked at for disadvantaged stars

"We'll look at everything to create an even playing field for everyone because we now have a situation where 72 players are in the hard lockdown and they're not going to have the same preparation as those that are getting up and practising," he said.

Tiley says that while the situation is challenging for all involved, the majority of players have been willing to accept the reality of it.

"They're now in a position that their understanding is better but the comments of a few does not represent the comments and views of everyone," he said.

"I really think it's time we move on, they've got over the shock of the first four days of quarantine and we all get ready for what's going to be a magnificent start to the summer."

The Australian Open boss has also leapt to the defence of Djokovic, following widespread criticism that the World No.1 had handed organisers a list of demands on behalf of the players.

Novak Djokovic is seen here wearing a face mask after flying into Australia.
Novak Djokovic presented Australian Open organisers with a list of improvements he wanted for players in quarantine. Pic: Getty

According to Spanish tennis website Punto de Break, Djokovic demanded the length of isolation be reduced, for players to see their coach or trainer, and as many players as possible moved to private houses with a tennis court to facilitate training.

Djokovic, who resigned as president of the ATP Player Council to set up the Professional Tennis Players Association, also wanted better food and more fitness equipment delivered to the rooms of players.

"They were not demands, they were suggestions and ideas, as Novak always does," Tiley said.

"As number one player in the world he's entitled to that.

"What he was trying to do was try to find an opportunity for those players in lockdown and he was trying to take care of his playing group."

with agencies

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