Craig Tiley, the CEO of Tennis Australia, revealed the stress of planning the 2021 Open during the Covid-19 pandemic has seen him receive ‘significant abuse’ and led to him sending his family away from their own home.
Over the last six weeks, during the build-up to the Australian Open, passengers from three of the 15 charter flights to the tournament returned positive coronavirus tests, forcing 72 players and their teams into quarantine right before the competition.
Tiley committed to daily Zoom calls, most in the evening and at night, with all the female and male players, their support staff and then ‘critical workforce’ flying in for the event, such as umpires and international media. These calls lasted around five hours every day.
Craig Tiley, the CEO of Tennis Australia, revealed the stress of planning the 2021 Open
A total of 451 people, including 72 players, were forced into quarantine before tournament
The 59-year-old South African fronted up to all 451 frustrated people over video calls, guiding them through the process of the Covid-19 regulations but it came at some price for Tiley.
‘I got abused on the calls. It was significant,’ Tiley said.
‘There were a lot of complaints about a lot of things, and some of it was fine. We were just trying to do our best.
‘So I made a decision that was I going to front it and I was going to take the heat from everyone, not anyone from my team.
‘But normally when you take heat, you take it once. This was 15 straight days. It’s like being attacked for 15 straight days, verbally.’
Tiley committed to video chats with all the frustrated players and staff for five hours per day
Tiley moved his wife Ali, his twin boys, aged only seven, and eight-year-old daughter out of the family home and over to a small neighbouring town to Melbourne.
‘Because the stress was too much on the house,’ he said.
‘It was too hard because I don’t think I was in a place to be effective when I was at home.
‘So they left. I was at home by myself for probably seven, eight days. And I needed to be – I was getting hammered.
‘If you’re getting hammered like that, it’s probably better that you don’t have people around you because I would have vented on someone else.
The 59-year-old was subject to ‘significant abuse’ and moved his family away from their home
‘They sensed there was a heavy black cloud over the house so they went and when everyone was out of quarantine and they started playing, they came back, and the kids went back to school.’
He even explained the knock-on effect that the abuse was having on his health and sleeping patterns. Tiley failed to sleep for two consecutive nights and described the deprivation as ‘torture’ during some of the toughest weeks of his career.
‘I think I calculated it was like a 50-hour window of staying awake. It’s like torture,’ he said.
‘Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. But it was my choice. I could have cut things off. But it was just important enough to do things.’