Australian Open chief hopeful event will go ahead, but players, fans and staff health ‘a priority’

Australian Open ball

The first Grand Slam of the 2020 season is just around the corner and Australian Open officials are optimistic that the tournament will go ahead as planned despite the devastating bushfires in the country.

The fires have been burning out of control in several Australian states since September and 20 people have been killed so far, hundreds of families have lost their homes and millions of animals have died.

Skies have been filled with smoke for several weeks and the air quality has been labelled “very poor” and “hazardous” with Melbourne’s index rising to above 210 on Sunday.

ATP Player Council President Novak Djokovic had admitted that they “have to consider” postponing the Australian Open due to the fires, but also added it’s “probably the very, very last option”.

Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley says for now the season-opening Grand Slam is going ahead as planned, but says they are continuously monitoring the air quality.

“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 [having cancelled a Challenger in Canberra],” 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.

“We have access to real-time monitoring of air quality at all of our venues and 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. The smoke has proven intermittently problematic in some areas. The worst affected so far has been in Canberra and after consultation with medical, air and weather experts we made a decision to move our event to Bendigo.”

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