Australia is facing one of its worse crises as bushfires across the country continue to blaze and cause massive destruction. The massive bushfires have resulted in loss of life, loss of property, over half a billion animals dying and has created an environmental hazard.
Novak Djokovic, the 2019 Australian Open men’s champion and the president of the ATP Player Council, has stated that the 2020 Australian Open may be delayed due to the potentially unsafe conditions caused by bushfires and the impact it has had on Melbourne’s air quality. Djokovic expressed concern for the players’ health competing at Melbourne Park, which could make it necessary for safety measures to be imposed, if the air quality in the venue does not improve soon.
Djokovic revealed that a delay is one of the options being considered as a final resort. Djokovic’s team has been working with Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley in efforts to ascertain air quality in Melbourne as well as Sydney, where the ATP Cup Finals is set to be played. According to Djokovic, the evaluation of air quality in the ATP venues is consistent, and if no improvements are observed, Tennis Australia will be compelled to set new regulations for the tournament.
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Air Quality a Clear Health Concern for Players
While the Australian Open generally operates under a strict timeline as part of a series of prestigious tennis tournaments, Djokovic maintained that the health concern for the players must be a paramount concern for all involved.
Air quality issues have also been experienced by Djokovic and other players elsewhere. For instance, Djokovic stated that a number of Chinese tournaments have faced such challenges before. However, the bushfires that have razed multiple sectors of Australia have caused significant damage and will likely require new regulations from tennis’ governing bodies to overcome the challenge posed.
Djokovic is hopeful that the situation will change soon, but if the smoke from the bushfires continues at the same rate, he promises that the council who are slated to meet in 10 days will discuss ways to continue the tournament without endangering the players.
Specific Measures of ATP Unknown
The vice-president of the ATP, Kevin Anderson, admitted he was unsure of the specific measures to be used to help players avoid playing in venues with unsafe air. One possibility he offered to the media was the use of an air quality index, which would be used to evaluate safety conditions and dictate when players would be able to play.
Anderson expressed sympathy for those most victimised by the bushfires in Australia, stating that the bushfires’ effect on their tournament is a distant second in priority.