Defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic says that the organizers of the Australian Open Grand slam tennis tournament may need to consider delaying the start of the Grand Slam tournament due to the effects of the devastating wildfires in Australia, according to CBC Sports.
Tennis Australia and several other tennis stars have already announced several initiatives to raise funds for those affected by the fires, where more than 20 people have died and 1,500 homes destroyed. The air quality has also been severely affected in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra and playing in such conditions could have an impact on the players' health.
A tournament in Canberra has already been relocated to Bendigo due to the effects of the fires there. Djokovic is currently in Brisbane for the start of the ATP Cup and says, "I think they're going to try to do anything to not delay anything in terms of days and when it starts.
But if it comes down to ... those conditions affecting the health of players, I think we should definitely consider it. (They are) obviously tracking the situation every single day as it's evolving. I think they will if it continues the same way and if the quality of air is affected in Melbourne or Sydney, I think Tennis Australia probably will be forced to create some rules about it.
It's tough for them because scheduling ... has to be respected in terms of play and the Australian Open starts at a certain time, so there's a lot of different things involved. But health is a concern for me and for anybody."
Djokovic also said that the ATP Players council would discuss the issue but said that no one has had this kind of experience before. "So I really never had this kind of experience before. I hope that it's going to dissipate, that this is something that is very temporary."
The player that Djokovic beat in his opening match at the ATP Cup, Kevin Anderson, also voiced similar concerns. "Obviously first and foremost it's been so sad to see everything that's been going on ... just being here you realize just the extent of what's going on.
Obviously, sort of distant second is us and ... our air quality and being able to perform. But obviously it is hazardous. I think that's one of the concerns in some of the Asian weeks that we play in and that's something that we have spoken about on the council.
At what point does it become unhealthy ... I mean hopefully, it won't be an issue, but if it is I think definitely need to have that conversation about if it's dangerous to be out there."