Australian Open bullish after claims that Roger Federer benefits from favouritism in Slam

Australian tennis authorities defended themselves on Tuesday against charges that Roger Federer has received preferential scheduling treatment at the Grand Slam they run each January in Melbourne.

Describing the Swiss as a ‘once-in-a-generation’ athlete, Tournament Director Craig Tiley insisted that putting the Swiss player on so often at night at the Australian Open, away from the daytime heat, was based largely on demand from fans.

The matter has again been brought into focus after comments made by French player Julien Benneteau, who suggested that a business tie-up Federer has with Tennis Australia raised ‘disturbing’ questions.

Australian Open officials have defended themselves after claims of Roger Federer favouritism

Australian Open officials have defended themselves after claims of Roger Federer favouritism

Australian Open officials have defended themselves after claims of Roger Federer favouritism

Tournament director Craig Tiley described Federer as a 'once-in-a-generation' tennis player 

Tournament director Craig Tiley described Federer as a 'once-in-a-generation' tennis player 

Tournament director Craig Tiley described Federer as a ‘once-in-a-generation’ tennis player 

Tiley, who has helped turn the antipodean Slam from the poor relation into a rival to Wimbledon and the other Majors, set out the many logistical factors taken into consideration when trying to piece together daily schedules.

He also pointed to the allure of Federer, who will again fill London’s 02 Arena on Tuesday night when he fights for survival at the Nitto ATP Finals against Dominic Thiem.

‘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,’ said Tiley in a statement. 

The extensive statement on the claims also highlighted Federer's massive appeal to tennis fans

The extensive statement on the claims also highlighted Federer's massive appeal to tennis fans

The extensive statement on the claims also highlighted Federer’s massive appeal to tennis fans

‘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.

‘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.’

He did not make any apology for being an investor in the Ryder Cup-style annual Laver Cup, which is primarily promoted by Federer and his management group Team8. They have so far declined to comment.

‘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,’ said Tiley. 

Tiley (L) does not feel any other tournament director would act differently with various factors

Tiley (L) does not feel any other tournament director would act differently with various factors

Tiley (L) does not feel any other tournament director would act differently with various factors

‘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 of 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. 

‘There’s no way we can please everyone all the time, and everyone knows we do everything we can.’

The fact remains, however, that in a sport with several governing bodies that has nobody in overall charge, which also sees player management agencies as promoters of tournaments in some instances, conflicts of interest abound.

Federer has played 12 of his last 14 Australian Open matches at night on the Rod Laver Arena

Federer has played 12 of his last 14 Australian Open matches at night on the Rod Laver Arena

Federer has played 12 of his last 14 Australian Open matches at night on the Rod Laver Arena

Marin Cilic, who lost in this year’s Melbourne final to Federer, maintains that the roof should not have been closed for the match under the tournament’s heat policy.

Federer has played 12 out of his last 14 Australian Open matches at night on the Rod Laver Arena. 

It is definitely an advantage for top players to become so familiar with the main courts, but it is also a privilege that is earned. 

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