The upcoming Australian Open matches could be limited to retractable-roof venues and indoor courts if the ongoing bushfires in the country prove too hazardous, organizers have said.
The 2020 edition of the grand slam tennis tournament will be held from January 20 to February 2 at Melbourne Park, which has three retractable-roof stadia in the shape of Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Arena, and Margaret Court Arena. The ongoing bushfires have led to air-quality issues in Melbourne and organisers said earlier this week that there were no plans to move events amid concerns that the tournament could be delayed.
A contingency plan has now been outlined by organisers via the tournament’s official Twitter account. Responding to fans, the account said: “We have three roofed stadiums and eight indoor courts at Melbourne Park. In the unlikely case of extreme smoke conditions, the roofs will be closed on the three stadium courts and play will continue in their air-conditioned and air-filtered environment. If smoke infiltrates the three stadium courts, the air conditioning system will filter it out.”
Novak Djokovic, world No. 2 and ATP Players’ Council president, said at the weekend that his organization had held discussions with Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley concerning the Australian Open and would meet ahead of the tournament to discuss options.
Melbourne’s rating on the Air Quality Index stood at 156 on Monday, ranking in the “unhealthy” category. Weather conditions are expected to improve in the coming weeks.