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Tennis news - Australian Open boss Craig Tiley defends claims of favouritism towards Roger Federer

'Federer is a once-in-a-generation player' says Australian Open boss amid favouritism claims

13/11/2018 at 14:23Updated 13/11/2018 at 14:47

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley has responded to Frenchman Julien Benneteau’s claims that a conflict of interest has led to Roger Federer receiving preferential treatment at Melbourne.

Benneteau claimed 20-time major champion Federer has been granted kinder scheduling at the major to avoid sweltering conditions owing to Tiley’s business dealings with the Swiss’ management company, Team8, in relation to the Laver Cup.

The exhibition launched in 2017 receives heavy investment from Tennis Australia, and Benneteau has highlighted what he perceives to be a conflict of interest.

Federer played the low-profile Jan-Lennard Struff at 7.30pm in January while Novak Djokovic faced Gael Monfils during the afternoon instead of in the prime-time slot.

Julien Benneteau has accused Tiley of having a conflict of interest

Julien Benneteau has accused Tiley of having a conflict of interestGetty Images

The world No 137 told French radio station RMC: “In the organisation of this event, there’s Craig Tiley, the boss of the Australian Open, who deals with marketing and TV rights. He is paid by Roger Federer’s agent [Tony Godsick] and on the back of that, as luck would have it, Federer played 12 of his 14 matches at 7.30pm.

“This year, the US Open was inaugurating the new Louis Armstrong Court, and it seems that Tony Godsick went to the umpire’s office to in effect say ‘No way are you scheduling him here!’ It is normal that he should have privileges but there has been a slight excess.”

Federer sealed his 20th major title after beating Marin Cilic - but only after the roof of Rod Laver Arena was shut before play commenced, despite the temperature being below the 40-degree mark needed to trigger its closure based on the tournament's heat rule.

Roger Federer beat Marin Cilic under the roof at Rod Laver Arena in January

Roger Federer beat Marin Cilic under the roof at Rod Laver Arena in JanuaryGetty Images

But in a lengthy statement released on Tuesday, Tiley responded to the former French Open doubles champion’s claims, saying: "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 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."

Tiley adds: "We run our events to the highest standards and reject as well as challenge any claims to the contrary.

"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."