'We take credit': Australian Open boss' call on growing trend

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·Sports Reporter
·5-min read
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Novak Djokovic and Craig Tiley are pictured together after the 2021 Australian Open men's final.
Despite Novak Djokovic still not disclosing whether he is vaccinated, Craig Tiley says the strict requirement to do so in order to compete at the Australian Open has positively impacted the number of pro players getting the jab. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Australian Open boss Craig Tiley says he believes Tennis Australia deserves to take some of the credit for increasing numbers of vaccinated tennis players as the season-opening grand slam draws closer.

The subject of coronavirus vaccination has been a touchy one in the tennis world for the last few months, with both the Australian federal government and Victorian state government unwilling to budge on the requirement for players to be protected against Covid-19.

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It's set an interesting stage for the Australian Open in 2022, with the likes of world No.1 Novak Djokovic still yet to say publicly whether they have been vaccinated.

However, after some concerns emerged about how many of the world's best players could potentially miss the Australian Open over their vaccination status, Tiley says there has been a noticeable increase in uptake.

Earlier in the year it was reported that little over half of ATP and WTA players were fully vaccinated, a figure Tiley says has substantially increased since it became clear vaccination would be a requirement to enter Australia and compete.

In an interview with SEN, Tiley said Tennis Australia had no regrets about backing the government's strong stance on the issue.

“We have always said from the beginning that we support and follow the direction of health (officials) and the chief health officer, as well as the government,” he said.

“Six weeks ago only 50 per cent of the global playing group (were vaccinated), because each of them are independent contractors – they don’t have a union that dictates what they can do. They make their own decisions.

“Today more than 85 per cent are. We take a lot of credit for that, because we put a vaccination requirement on (competing at the Australian Open).

“We think by the time we get to January, it will be between 95 per cent and 100 per cent vaccinated, because if you’re not, you cannot play."

Tiley went on to say he believed it would be highly unlikely that various players would be able to obtain medical exemptions not to get the jab.

“There are one or two players that obviously have medical conditions, as there are in the community. There is a medical condition exemption but it’s a very high bar to get across," he said.

“Everything’s exactly in line with what the health mandates are, and so it should be, because there shouldn’t be any preferential treatment for anyone coming into the state, comparative to what the regular community is going through.”

Bumper tournament schedule leading into Australian Open

Being fully vaccinated will also make it substantially easier for players to travel around Australia for what is shaping up to be a loaded calendar of events leading into the Australian Open.

The ATP Cup will return to Sydney as the centrepiece of a blockbuster build-up, with a record 17 tournaments will be held before the Open at Melbourne Park from January 17-30.

This year's ATP Cup, as well as all other AO lead-up events, was held at Melbourne Park because of the global pandemic.

But with the country opening up, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and even regional Victoria will enjoy a slice of the action this summer.

The bumper program begins on New Year's Day with the 16-team ATP Cup from January 1-9, while Australia's world No.1 Ash Barty is expected to open her summer at the women's Adelaide International from January 2-9.

Tennis Australia's Craig Tiley announced a massive schedule of competition around Australia leading into next year's Australian Open. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
Tennis Australia's Craig Tiley announced a massive schedule of competition around Australia leading into next year's Australian Open. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

A new, one-off Sydney Tennis Classic, a combined men's and women's event featuring a WTA 500 and ATP 250, will take place in Sydney from January 9-15.

That same week, the world's best men's and women's players will return to Adelaide for a second event in the South Australia capital.

Bendigo and Traralgon will also host ATP Challenger and ITF women's tournaments from January 2-9.

There will also be two WTA 250 tournaments and one ATP 250 at Melbourne Park from January 3-9 before Australian Open qualifying starts the following day.

"We have worked closely with both the women's and men's tour and would like to particularly thank our government partners across the country who have all been tireless in their efforts to bring the tennis back in 2022," Tiley said.

"I know it was sorely missed this year, and we are already planning to have a full program of events across the country in 2023."

With AAP

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