Smoke unlikely to delay Oz Open matches: Organisers

Smoke from bushfires is unlikely to delay the Australian Open Grand Slam, organisers said on Tuesday, insisting they have pulled out all stops to protect the health and safety of players.
Smoke unlikely to delay Oz Open matches: Organisers
A file photo of the 2019 edition of the Australian Open

Sydney

With the opening major of 2020 due to start on January 20, Melbourne has been blanketed by haze in recent days from blazes burning to the east -- part of Australia’s bushfire crisis. Novak Djokovic, President of the ATP Players’ Council, had said organisers should consider delaying the tournament, as a last resort, if conditions do not improve.

But Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley said it is unlikely to happen. “There has been a lot of speculation about whether the smoke from the bushfires will affect the Australian Open,” he said. “All the information we have at the moment, with qualifying coming up next week, is that the forecast is good. We don’t expect any delays and we’ve implemented additional measures to ensure the Grand Slam will be able to run as scheduled.”

Tiley said images of the fires, which have destroyed hundreds of properties, were distressing, but added there is no danger to people in Melbourne. “The closest fires are several hundred kilometres (miles) from the city,” he said, while stressing that the health and safety of players, staff and fans is a priority.

“We’ve committed substantial extra resources to analysis, monitoring and logistics,” he said. “There will be meteorological and air quality experts on site to analyse all available live data and assess in real-time the air quality at Melbourne Park. We always work closely with our medical personnel and other local experts.”

Any smoke hazards would be treated in a similar way to extreme heat and rain, with umpires able to stop play if air monitoring shows it is too dangerous to continue. But as Melbourne Park has three roofed stadiums and eight other indoor courts, the chances of major delays appear minimal.

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