Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley speaks to media. *Getty Images)
South Africa’s “rejected” Craig Tiley has again received universal praise for his handling of an Australian Open tennis tournament – and this one, he says, was “undoubtedly the most difficult.”
Faced with unending obstacles which threatened the very existence of the opening Grand Slam event of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the born-and-bred South African, who ended up in Australia in 2005 after Tennis South Africa rejected his master plan to revive the country’s stature in the sport as being too costly and ambitious, has since devastatingly disproven these sentiments.
Firstly, after becoming tournament director of the ever-improving and acclaimed Australian Open in 2006, and then when he added the CEO position of Tennis Australia to his mantle in 2013.
Describing the tournament that was completed on Sunday at Melbourne Park with the implacable world number one, Novak Djokovic, acquiring his ninth Australian Open men’s singles title and 18th such Grand Slam title overall and Naomi Osaka her second Australian Open women’s title, Tiley described the problem-riddled proceedings as “definitely the most difficult I have faced, but ultimately the most challenging and satisfying as well.”
First postponed from the traditional starting date in mid-January, with players isolated before and during the two-week tournament and the strictly limited spectator presence threatened for five days during the middle of the event itself after an added coronavirus scare in Melbourne, Tiley was landed with the additional task of organising the safety and welfare of 600 players, technical staff, assistants, officials, umpires, ball boys and girls and such-like.
And the fact that the tournament was completed without a single major outbreak at the tournament itself or at the accompanying areas was quite awesome and as satisfying as anything that had been hoped to materialise – or even feared.
Little wonder Djokovic and Osaka led the plaudits for the 59-year-old Tiley and his army of helpers in maintaining the high standards of one of the world’s great tennis events under such difficult circumstances, with only a tinge of regret, perhaps, with the recollection that his tennis organisational skills had been summarily dismissed in the country of his birth.