Bushfire smoke threatens Australian Open in Melbourne

Published: Jan 7, 2020, 9:01 am IST

Sydney: Dense bushfire smoke is threatening the start of the Australian Open with a potentially hazardous fog lingering over Melbourne less than a fortnight before the competition begins.

On Monday afternoon, the city’s air quality was downgraded from ‘very poor’ to ‘hazardous’, prompting health warnings from authorities, reports Xinhua news agency.

The smoke comes from widespread fires which continue to rage in Victoria’s East Gippsland region.

World No. 2 and seven-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic expressed his concerns about the air quality in Melbourne, saying that players and officials would meet to discuss a possible delayed start to the tournament.

However, Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley responded by saying that he is confident the event will go ahead as planned.

“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.

Women’s world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty said that there were bigger issues than the delaying of the tournament by a couple of days, and that health and safety would have to come first.