Australian Open: Organizers unveil contingency plans as bushfires continue to rage

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This year, however, raging bushfires focused on the country and raised questions about the safety of players and fans before the Grand Slam curtain was opened for tennis.

What does this mean for the Australian Open, which is scheduled to start on January 20?

In Melbourne, where the tournament is taking place, smoke from fires in the southeastern states of Victoria and New South Wales is expected to rise during the tournament.

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In a series of Twitter posts on Tuesday, the organizers of the Australian Open said that the tournament is expected to take place as planned, although defending champion Novak Djokovic said earlier this week that the delay in starting the tournament was being considered given the extreme nature of the fires have to be.

"In the unlikely event of extreme smoking conditions, the roofs of the 3 stadium pitches will be closed and the game will continue in their air-conditioned, air-filtered environment," said the official Twitter account of the Australian Open said,

"If smoke penetrates the 3 stadium pitches, it is filtered out by the air conditioning system."

Novak Djokovic returns to Gael Monfils during the ATP Cup in Brisbane.
READ: Novak Djokovic brings Maria Sharapova's $ 17,400 donation to Australia's Bushfire Relief
Three of the Australian Open show courts at Melbourne Park – the Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and Melbourne Arena – are equipped with retractable roofs that are closed in rain or extreme heat. The National Tennis Center is also located on the premises. There are eight other indoor courts that are believed to be an option for the tournament if the air quality is too poor to play.

Djokovic, President of the ATP Players' Council, said: "I know that playing conditions in China are very difficult in terms of air quality, but that's different – I've never had such an experience.

"(Delaying the tournament) is probably the very last option. When it comes to … affecting the health of the players, you have to think about it."

The first Grand Slam of the calendar year is no stranger to the storm.

Temperatures will often rise to over 40 degrees Celsius over the next fortnight, and the same is expected this time as the country approaches its hottest point of the year.

Extreme heat policies have been in place for a number of years, and a heat load scale was introduced last year to make hot weather measurement more comprehensive.

"Estimating the likelihood of smoke-related interruptions is roughly equivalent to dealing with heat and rain," said Craig Tiley, head of Tennis Australia, this week.

"We have experts who analyze all available live data as specifically as possible for our locations and regularly consult with tournament directors and, in the event of heat and smoke, with medical experts."

As for the players, the resounding response to the bushfire was a call for support.

Nick Kyrgios started fundraising last week when he pledged $ 140 for every ace he hits at upcoming tournaments. Numerous other players – Australians or others – have since joined their own financial support offerings.
Maria Sharapova donated $ 17,400, with Djokovic agreeing to keep up with her, and the world's number one, Ashleigh Barty, has offered to give up her Brisbane International prize money.
READ: Emotional Nick Kyrgios leads Bushfire support while Tennis Australia pledges $ 700,000

"Tennis is a sport, it's a game we play, and there are certainly a lot of bigger things to do in Australia that we need to lose," said Barty, who also donated $ 20,850 (USD 30,000) to the RSPCA to support wildlife that were affected by the fires at the end of last year.

"It means that it doesn't matter if we are a day or two late (at the Australian Open). What matters is that the Australians are safe and we can solve the bigger problems."

Ashleigh Barty will donate her winnings to Australia's Bushfire Relief at Brisbane International.

Canberra International, which started on Monday, has been moved 600 kilometers from the capital to Bendigo due to air quality, and tennis is not the only sport affected.

Rugby Union side The Brumbies have relocated their training base from Canberra to Newcastle due to poor air conditions.

A game in the Big Bash League in the capital was canceled due to a smoke mist in December, and golfers complained of coughing fits and burning eyes when they competed at the Australian Open in Sydney. New Zealander Ryan Chisnall borrowed a mask from an audience to help his asthma.
The Australian government has advised that individuals can protect themselves from bush smoke by staying indoors with windows and doors closed and avoiding physical activity.

However, this may not be an option for the global tennis elite.

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