Tennis

Djoker enters Federer conspiracy war of words

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic leapt to the defence of great rival Roger Federer on Tuesday (AEDT) after claims that the Swiss enjoys preferential treatment on Tour.

Frenchman Julien Benneteau caused a stir during an interview on French radio station RMC Sport on Monday in which he said tournament referees were often kinder to Federer when it came to scheduling his matches.

Benneteau was particularly referring to the Australian Open where he said 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer played “12 or 13” of his 14 matches at Melbourne in the past two years at night, so avoiding the often scorching temperatures.

He also suggested Federer’s Laver Cup project, an exhibition team event in which Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley is also involved, represented a conflict of interest.

“When he [Federer] promotes the Laver Cup, there are a number of conflicts of interest that have become disturbing,” Benneteau said.

“In the organisation of this event, there’s Craig Tiley, the boss of the Australian Open, who deals with marketing and television rights. He 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 7.30pm.”

Asked for his thoughts after his round-robin victory over American John Isner at the ATP Finals on Tuesday, Djokovic said Federer had earned the right for special treatment.

“In the end of the day, in a way he deserves the special treatment because he’s six-time champion of Australian Open and arguably the best player ever,” Djokovic told reporters.

“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 showtime, the best hours, which is 7:30 at night in Rod Laver Arena.

“I understand Julien’s point because sometimes it does seem that maybe certain players get more favoured year after year in certain tournaments. On the other side, you have to understand that Federer is a driving force of tennis in terms of revenue, in terms of attention.

“Julien and guys like him are also benefiting from tennis, because of Roger, because of what he has done for the sport.”

Isner went even further, saying the likes of Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal should get even more privileges.

“If anything, maybe they should get more special treatment because those guys, the top players, have made other players below them a lot of money,” the American said after his 6-4 6-3 defeat.

“It is like the Tiger Woods effect in golf. So that is how you can look at a guy like Roger. He is men’s tennis in my opinion. He deserves everything and more that he’s ever had.”

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