Australian Open organizers are calling the event a success despite the extra cost and difficulty of holding the tournament during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I think there were many people who doubted we could pull it off," Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley was quoted as telling press in Melbourne following the event.
"We can look back on it now as a highly successful event in the circumstances. I believe in the coming month, there will be a realization of the extent of what we managed to achieve in pulling off what we did."
The Australian swing began with players having to do two weeks of quarantine and finished with Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka lifting the Australian Open titles in front of an almost full 7,477 capacity crowd allowed, though there were numerous interruptions and changes during the events.
But according to Tiley, Tennis Australia was convinced of the value of holding the Australian Open if it could get government permission, despite the stringent safety protocols for entering the country.
"If you can have it, you go for it. That’s my attitude. If there’s a way to get it done, as difficult as it has been—I know a lot more today than I knew, like, a month ago, or six weeks ago—but if there’s a way to have it, you have it," he said.
Yet Tennis Australia will have to spend most of its AU$80 million holdings and request a loan to meet the costs of holding the event. Its quarantine bubble for players and teams was AU$40 million, including hosting some top players in Adelaide and 72 players in hard quarantine, and the five-day lockdown during the Australian Open was a hit of "north of $20 million at least" for the tournament, according to Tiley.
"It’s ticketing, it’s premium hospitality, it’s partners not being able to activate," he said.
The tournament's attendance was less than 150,000, compared to more than 800,000 previously, and national TV ratings were down around 30 percent as expected because of the three-week delay that put the event in a less favorable time slot.
But Tiley insisted that the reputational cost of not having the tournament would have been even higher in terms of its ability to attract sponsorship, players and viewers. And, he added, his "leadership role is to protect this event and protect the history of this event and protect its viability and protect its position."
Protecting sporting events during the pandemic was also important because they tended to be easily sidelined, he argued.
"And so we’ve got to fight to keep it, and fight to keep events because that keeps the relevance for the sport and the community," said Tiley. "And the government has realized it, and that’s why they backed it."
Tiley's comments were despite complaints he received from players during quarantine, part of a heavy workload for those at Tennis Australia during and before the events.
"I got abused on the calls. It was significant," he said to AAP. "Normally when you take heat, you take it once. This was 15 straight days."
The tournament usually brings in around AU$400 million for Tennis Australia.