Novak Djokovic news: Australian Open chief rejects suggestions visa fiasco damaged event’s reputation

Novak Djokovic lifts the Australian Open trophy

The Australian Open continues to score high on customer satisfaction surveys despite the drama surrounding the Novak Djokovic visa debacle, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.

The hard-court Grand Slam and Tennis Australia have come in for strong criticism following the world No 1’s deportation on the back of Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to use his personal powers to revoke his visa for a second time.

The controversy started when Djokovic revealed that he had been given an exemption to compete at the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated with Tennis Australia confirming two medical boards cleared him to play.

However, his visa was cancelled upon arrival in Melbourne and, although he won his initial legal battle, three judges unanimously upheld Hawke’s decision and he was forced to leave the country.

Organisers have certainly not hit the headlines for the right reasons in recent weeks, but Tiley insisted their reputation has not been damaged.

“No I absolutely don’t (think so),” he is quoted as saying by PA news agency. “I think the reputation of the tournament’s been defined by what you see today. We’ve had more people from around the world watch the Australian Open than ever before.

“The feedback we’re getting from our customer satisfaction surveys on site has been the highest, even higher than 2020. The feedback we’re getting from our broadcasters has also been the highest. Eurosport put out a note this morning that they’re getting their biggest numbers ever.

“No one person is bigger than the event. I think we’re going to end up over the next five days firstly with a great event and potentially with a couple of new champions.”

Novak Djokovic news: Craig Tiley responds to reports that world No 1 will sue Tennis Australia

There have also been concerns over Covid-19 protocols at the tournament with Alexander Zverev revealing that players are not getting tested while Ugo Humbert and Alison Van Uytvanck revealed they tested positive just as they were about the leave Australia.

Tiley added: “It’s really impossible to supervise 3,000 people every morning. We’re trusting the players are doing the right thing.

“We know we’ve distributed thousands of antigen tests for the players, we’re getting feedback from a lot that they are continuing to do the right thing and we’re still getting some positives, so we know they are.

“On our mandatory tests, we’ve been well below the community averages so the approach of mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing, as well as the testing programme, is hopefully going to help us get through this event with much lower positive case rates than the community.”