Ash Barty has provided the cash boon Tennis Australia so desperately needed as tournament director Craig Tiley concedes the Melbourne Park major ran in the red for the second straight year.
After emptying its cash reserves of $80 million and taking out a $40 million loan to stage the COVID-19-ravaged 2021 Australian Open, TA had hoped this year’s edition would help replenish its coffers.
But Tiley on Sunday revealed “we’ll still lose money” due to more caps on crowds, ticket sales being down once again and travel and COVID-19 testing costs.
“We were restricted this year to 50 per cent (crowd capacity) for most of the event,” Tiley told AAP. “We’re now at 80 per cent but still it’s pretty late – but we’ll take anything.
“I think we’ll still lose money this year but our recovery’s started and when we get to 2023 we’ll bounce back real fast and we’ll put ourselves back in a very positive position.”
Emerge from pandemic ‘with no debt’
Tiley is confident TA will emerge from the pandemic “with no debt”.
“That is what my plan is by the middle of the year and having a platform where everyone keeps their jobs and we can move into the next round of opportunity,” he said.
Barty’s drought-breaking women’s Open triumph is central to TA’s financial recovery.
“We put a lot of infrastructure over the last years in building the product and we’ve enjoyed during COVID an exponential increase in (playing) participation,” Tiley said.
“That’s not our survey – that’s the government’s survey – so it’s comparative to everything. So that’s been great.
“But now we’ve got the marketing vehicle with Ash’s success and we can match that with the infrastructure we have in place and we’ll see really a strong growth in our sport and ongoing growth in it.
“It’s a beautiful sport to play – we’ve been saying it for boys and girls and especially for little girls who want to be like Ash.
“So we’re so proud of her and this will really accelerate us into another level of participation.”
After a turbulent build-up and start to the 117th Open, due to the Novak Djokovic visa fiasco and fallout, Barty’s march to the title, an all-Australian doubles men’s final and Rafael Nadal shooting for the grand slam titles record, the 2022 event will be remembered as one of the greatest.
‘More than we could have asked for’
“It was a tough start but at the end of the day we just put our heads down and kept on working day in and day out to make it a great event and it ascended absolutely perfectly,” Tiley said.
“Having an Australian champion and the (Nadal v Daniil Medvedev men’s final) match going into tonight is more than we could have asked for.”
Tiley refused to be drawn back into the Djokovic saga when asked if, given the Open’s success without the nine-times champion and world No.1, such desperate measures to have the Serb playing while unvaccinated were worth it.
“My job is to bring the best players into the country,” he said.
“I dont want to dig up stuff that’s really old news.
“We’ll do a full event debrief where we’ll be able to look at that and at a bunch of different things.
“Not only are we the ones that are going to learn lessons, everyone’s going to learn lessons from this, I think governments as well.”