MELBOURNE. — Australian Open tennis practice was temporarily suspended yesterday and qualifying delayed by an hour because of poor air quality in Melbourne caused by ongoing bushfires.
Organisers said the conditions were expected to improve and would be “monitored constantly”.
An estimated 10 million hectares of land has burned since July 1 amid record-breaking temperatures and months of drought.
At least 28 people have died.
Qualifying was scheduled to begin at 11am local time with British players Liam Broady, Naiktha Bains, Harriet Dart, Jay Clarke and Samantha Murray scheduled on court.
However, in the hour before the scheduled start time the air quality around Melbourne Park was registering at 229 on the Air Quality Index, which is considered “very unhealthy”.
“Further decisions will be made based on site data, and in close consultation with our medical team, the Bureau of Meteorology and scientists from EPA Victoria,” organisers said in a statement on Twitter.
“As always the health and safety of our players, our staff and our fans is our priority.”The tournament starts on January 20.
Last week organisers said they did not expect any delays, with tournament director Craig Tiley saying the forecast was good.
On Monday, the the International Tennis Federation, Wimbledon, and the US and French Opens donated US$400 000 to the Australian Bushfire relief efforts. — BBC Sport.