Novak Djokovic, who won a record seventh Australian Open title in 2019, suggested that the organizers should consider postponing the start of the tournament if the Melbourne’s air quality continues to deteriorate due to the ongoing bush fires.
Djokovic is also serving as an ATP Player Council President. As such, he expressed his concerns about potential health issues and opined that measures might have to be taken to protect players.
Speaking after winning his first ATP Cup game against Kevin Anderson on Saturday, Djokovic said that delaying the start of the competition is the “very last option” but should not be excluded, as it comes to the players’ health and well-being.
Djokovic said he is in touch with Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley, who had been monitoring the air quality in Melbourne and Sydney every day.
ATP Council vice-president, Kevin Anderson added to the discussion highlighting that there will be a council meeting in a week to discuss potential air quality measures if the conditions remain the same.
Australia is now witnessing its most brutal fire season in years. The fires flared up unusually early this year, in September. Since then, twenty-four people lost their lives; 1,365 homes have been destroyed, and at least 500 severely damaged; more than five million hectares of farmland have been scorched.
According to the ecologists from the University of Sydney, nearly half a billion mammals, birds, and reptiles died since the fires started. The government launched naval and air rescue operations on Friday to provide safe mass evacuation of towns at risk of being entirely engulfed by flames.
The majority of the professional tennis players are already Down Under to participate in the ATP Cup and Canberra International before the start of the first Grand Slam of the year – the Australian Open, taking place from January 20 to February 2.
The world No 30th, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, already urged Tennis Australia to schedule an exhibition match and donate the prize money. In addition to that, moved to tears, Kyrgios announced he would donate USD 200 for every ace he hits at the upcoming tournaments.
His compatriots, Alex de Minaur and John Millman, were among the first to join his initiative and chipped in with donations of USD 175 and USD 70 per ace, respectively.
Simona Halep, women’s world No. 4, admitted she would raise more money if she gives USD 200 every time she yells at her Australian coach Darren Cahill. Alize Cornet of France promised to donate USD 50 for every drop shot winner she makes in Australia.
Maria Sharapova, who calls Australia her January home for years, would compete in the Brisbane International, which starts on Monday. The Russian tennis star announced has pledged Sunday USD 17,400 to Australia’s bush fire relief and encouraged her colleague Novak Djokovic to do the same.
What do you think? Do you support or oppose Novak Djokovic’s statement that the Australian Open might be postponed due to health risks for players?