Australian Open could be played indoors or delayed due to ‘very unhealthy’ air after devastating bushfires – The Sun
THE Australian Open could be played indoors or even delayed if intense bushfires continue to affect air quality in Melbourne.
Australia is reeling from devastating summer fires across its States which have engulfed coastal cities in massive plumes of smoke.
On Monday, parts of Melbourne recorded air quality indexes above 200, which is classed as “very unhealthy”.
At these pollution levels, the AQI says there will be “health warnings of emergency conditions” and “the entire population is more likely to be affected”.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic will defend his title at Melbourne Park from January 20 but believes a delay is possible if there are health concerns for players.
The ATP Player Council will meet with Aussie Open organisers to discuss air quality measures with qualifying starting next week.
Serbian Djokovic, who is ATP Player Council president, said: “You have to always consider it because of some extreme weather and conditions.
“That’s probably the very, very last option.
“But if it comes down to…the conditions affecting the health of players, you have to consider it.
“It’s tough for them because the schedule has to be respected, the Australian Open starts at a certain time so there are a lot of things involved.
“But a health concern is a health concern for anybody.”
Melbourne Park has plenty of indoor courts and three main arenas with retractable roofs.
Tennis Australia acted swiftly last week to move the second-tier Challenger event 400 miles from Canberra to Bendigo following toxic air pollution in the capital.
Craig Tiley, the CEO of Tennis Australia and tournament director of the Aussie Open, said they would monitor conditions over the next two weeks.
He said: “We have committed substantial extra resources to analysis, monitoring and logistics to ensure the health and safety of all players, staff and fans throughout the summer and have no other plans to move events.
“Assessing the likelihood of smoke-induced interruptions is a bit like how we treat heat and rain.
“We have experts who analyse all available live data as specific to our sites as possible and consult regularly with tournament officials and, in the case of heat and smoke, medical experts.
“We have access to real-time monitoring of air quality at all of our venues.
“We are working closely with medical personnel and local experts onsite to ensure we have the best possible information available to make any decisions regarding whether play should be halted at any point.
“The health of players, fans and staff is a priority at all times and we will continue to make these decisions with that in mind.”
Several high-profile stars, including Simona Halep, Nick Kyrgios and Ash Barty, have made financial pledges to support communities affected by the bushfire crisis.
Jo Konta started her season with a disappointing first-round exit at the Brisbane International.
The British No.1, playing in her first match for four months following knee problems, was beaten 6-2 3-6 6-3 by Barbora Strycova. The Czech, ranked 33rd in the world, knocked out Konta from the 2019 Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Konta, 28, will play the Adelaide International next week before moving to the first Grand Slam of the year.
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