Australian Open schedule farce: Craig Tiley’s stubbornness threatens ‘happy slam’

Craig Tiley’s decree that the scheduling can’t possibly be changed even after the latest farcical 4am finish reeks of arrogance. Julian Linden says something needs to change at the top.

Craig Tiley’s reluctance to change the farcical late-night scheduling at the Australian Open tells you everything that’s gone wrong with the not-so ‘happy slam’.

Spoken like someone who has lost touch with what players and paying spectators want, Tiley’s decree that the scheduling is too hard to change even after the farcical 4am finish of the blockbuster between Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis reeks of arrogance.

Of course it can be changed.

Match scheduling is a tricky business, particularly when it rains, but it’s not rocket science either.

None of the other grand slam tennis tournaments continue playing matches that late so it’s a cop out that the Australian Open can’t do the same.

At a time when the physical and mental health of athletes is under renewed scrutiny, there’s just no justification for having players out on court at 4am in the morning.

But the saddest part of it all, is how the players’ wishes don’t seem to matter.

For years, players have been pleading with Australian Open organisers to fix the tournament’s absurd scheduling but nothing ever changes.

It’s already an indictment on the sport’s leaders that the first grand slam of each year takes place in January in the middle of the Australian Summer.

Not only does it reduce their ever-shortening off-season, but the scorching temperatures present genuine health risks.

Players have literally fainted, suffered heat stress, experienced hallucinations and been placed on intravenous drips after melting in the stifling conditions.

The biggest names in the sport – Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Martina Navratilova – have campaigned for years to have the dates changed, but no one seems to be listening.

Now, Murray is the latest to join the choir calling for change.

He wants the ridiculous late-night matches canned – and he’s not the only one.

Like the others, Murray is a hugely respected figure in the game who doesn’t often bite the hand that feeds him, so when he speaks up about something he feels strongly about, Tiley really should be paying attention.

Let’s not forget, Murray won his marathon match against Kokkinakis so his complaints about the timing and the lack of action from administrators were not those of a sore loser.

But Tiley wasn’t having any of it. As soon as the sun was up, he was on breakfast television reminding everyone that he’s the boss and what he says goes.

No-one should be surprised because that’s been his modus operandi for years now but in this case, like so many other times, the South African-born Tiley has again failed to read the room.

While he rightfully deserves a lot of credit for transforming the Australian Open into the mega, cash-cow event that it has become, he has also opened himself up to accusations that he’s only about the money.

He’s never far from the cameras when the Australian Open winners are being presented with their trophies but when the pressure is on – like it was last year during the Novak Djokovic vaccination saga – he’s harder to find than ‘where’s Wally’.

It’s sometimes said that the true test of leadership is being able to make meaningful change.

If the Australian Open is ever to become known as the ‘happy slam’ again, then something needs to change at the top.

Originally published as Comment: Craig Tiley’s reluctance to change Australian Open scheduling threatens ‘happy slam’

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