Is the Australian Open 2020 in danger of being cancelled?
It's less than a week until round one of the Australian Open is due to kick off and the host city - Melbourne- is under a thick blanket of smog and toxic plumes from Australia's bushfires that has completely destroyed New South Wales. The Environment Protection Authority officially described the air quality as 'very poor' and the air quality index has shot to 210, which is considered 'very unhealthy'.
Players like Novak Djokovic have expressed their concern about playing in such a situation and is concerned about potential health issues at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic who is the president of the ATP Player Council has said that they may have to consider delaying the start of the tournament.
He said: “You have to consider it because of some extreme weather or 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.”
The CEO of Tennis Australia Craig Tiley, however, is optimistic about Australian Open 2020 taking place as per schedule:
“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,” Tiley said.
“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," he added.
While Tennis Australia previously said cancelling or a delaying the event would be extremely unlikely, health experts said athletes exercising in polluted air could get extremely sick.
However, contingency plans to move matches indoors are in place to ensure matches to go ahead for both for qualifying and the main draw.
Players have been pledging to donate money towards bushfire relief funds for ever for every ace they hit during the Australian Open.
I will be donating $100 for every Ace I hit during the Australian Open Swing + every Ace @ashbarty and I hit as a team in doubles at the @AustralianOpen, to help support those affected by the wildfires in Australia. I love you Australia #everylittlehelps pic.twitter.com/6fIu0nyinA— Jule Goerges (@juliagoerges) January 4, 2020