Sydney, Nov 14 (IANS) Australian Open director Craig Tiley has responded to criticism that he gives Roger Federer preferential treatment by saying that the former World No. 1 creates interest in the sport and deserves to play at times that will draw the largest spectator numbers.
“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,” Tiley told an Australian newspaper on Wednesday, reports Xinhua news agency.
“The fans demand his appearance in the big stadiums and our broadcasters naturally want his matches to air in prime time.”
The comments follow accusations made on French radio by retired tennis professional Julien Benneteau, that the “prime time” Australian Open slot of 7.30 p.m. affords players an unfair advantage, as the temperature is much cooler than during the day when other competitors are forced to play in sweltering heat.
Benneteau also criticised Tiley’s involvement with Federer’s management company in organising the Laver Cup event, suggesting that arrangements between the pair created a conflict of interest.
“Craig Tiley is paid by Roger Federer’s agent and on the back of that, as luck would have it, Federer played 12 of his 14 matches at 7.30 p.m.,” Benneteau said.
Current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has spoken up in defence of his rival. “At the end of the day, in a way he deserves the special treatment because he’s six-time Australian Open champion and arguably the best player ever.”
“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 the best hours, which is 7.30 at night in the Rod Laver Arena,” the Serbian added.