When booking Australian Open tickets, or tickets to any major tennis tournament, Championship Tennis Tours can always get you the best seats on center court, and there’s a reason why…that’s where the top seeds will be playing…, you can expect to see the top players such as Federer and Nadal, and Serena, scheduled to go in Prime Time. Some don’t think that’s necessarily fair. French player Julien Benneteau yesterday started a row in the tennis world by blasting Federer for being allowed to play most of his matches in the evening, away from the blistering daytime heat.
However, Novak Djokovic came to the aide of his rival by insisting the Swiss star deserves any special treatment he may get.
And Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has released a lengthy statement defending his event’s stance.
“In terms of players and their appeal, it needs to be said that Roger Federer is a once-in-a-generation player widely regarded as one of the biggest ‘box office’ athletes in the world,” the statement read
“He has been regularly voted Australia’s favourite athlete.
“The fans demand his appearance in the big stadiums and our broadcasters naturally want his matches to air in prime time.
“And I don’t think there’s a tournament director in the world who’s not going to take those factors into account when setting the schedule.
“This is the case with all the big names in tennis, and in sport in general.”
Benneteau controversially started the row by telling RMC: “Over the last two Australian Opens, [Federer] played 14 matches, because he was champion and finalist.
“And he played 12 or 13 of his 14 matches in the night session. On the same day, Federer played Jan-Lennard Struff – I have nothing against Struff, great guy – Novak Djokovic played Gael Monfils.
“We’re agreed that on paper, any tournament director would put Djokovic-Monfils on night session at 7.30pm, right?’ But no. They played at 2.30pm, in 104 degrees. And Federer-Struff played at night.”
And Djokovic defended Federer after his ATP Finals win against John Isner last night.
“At the end of the day, in a way he deserves the special treatment because he’s six-time champion of Australian Open and arguably the best player ever,” he said.
“If he doesn’t have it, who is going to have it?
“People want to see him play on the centre court, and they want to see him play in showtime, the best hours, which is 7.30 at night in Rod Laver Arena.”
Tennis Australia full statement
“When looking at a schedule in tennis, there are so many factors that demand any tournament director’s consideration.
“The players and fans are obviously at the forefront. But even within those groups there are many and varied requirements.
“These can range from player preferences, injury or general fitness concerns to general broadcast preferences or a major broadcaster’s own program needs for their particular market.
“On top of that there is another layer of considerations including operational logistics requiring the scheduling team to have to make estimations on the likely length and outcome of matches (sometimes days in advance) to the everyday considerations of dealing with changing weather conditions.
“In terms of players and their appeal, it needs to be said that Roger Federer is a once-in-a-generation player widely regarded as one of the biggest ‘box office’ athletes in the world.
“He has been regularly voted Australia’s favourite athlete. The fans demand his appearance in the big stadiums and our broadcasters naturally want his matches to air in prime time.
“And I don’t think there’s a tournament director in the world who’s not going to take those factors into account when setting the schedule. This is the case with all the big names in tennis, and in sport in general.
“Tennis Australia is justly proud of the success of the Laver Cup, in which we certainly have a share, along with the USTA and other partners. It’s been one of the most successful new tennis events in recent times, showing the sport in a new light and attracting new fans.
“I’d say the success of the Laver Cup has been seen as somewhat a ‘disruptor’ to the men’s game. We run our events to the highest standards and reject as well as challenge any claims to the contrary.
“We also make no secret about working hard to provide the very best experience for all the players at the Australian Open. We will continue to do this. We want players to love our sport, our event and get appropriately rewarded.
“We put significant resources into looking after all of them and making the Australian Open, and Melbourne, one of their very favourite places to be. We’ve prided ourselves on really listening to the players and taking into account their needs and priorities, whether it’s the way we operate our transport system, the food we serve, the relaxation and training areas we provide and of course, scheduling matches.
“There’s no way we can please everyone all the time, and everyone knows we do everything we can.”