For followers of Grand Slam tennis competition, the year sort of officially begins sometime in January with the first Grand Slam open tournament of four. Eyes thus turn to the Land Down Under for the Australian Open. This year 2020 it will be the 52nd edition in the modern “Open” era of tennis, but historically the 108th time the tournament was held. But even as preparations in Melbourne Park continue for the start of competition less than two weeks from now, there are concerns regarding the environmental disaster happening elsewhere in the continent, namely the bushfires that have been raging since September of last year.
But as BBC tells it, the Australian bushfires will not be much of an issue at all for this year’s Australian Open, according to the tournament organizers. That is not to say the major city and capital of the state of Victoria has not been touched by the ecological damage wrought by the long-lived rampaging fires. As of Monday, January 6 the Melbourne air quality index has already reached a count of 213, past the “very unhealthy” level of 200. Organizers however are confident that their additional measures will ensure that the players and spectators will not be significantly affected.
According to tournament director Craig Tiley, the forecast is still good for Melbourne to allow the Australian Open to begin as scheduled. But they will be vigilant in guarding the safety and health of all involved: players, staff and viewing spectators. “There will be meteorological and air quality experts onsite to analyse all available live data and assess in real-time the air quality at Melbourne Park,” notes Tiley adding, “This information will be used in a similar way to how we deal with extreme weather conditions like heat and rain.”
With regards to the venue, Melbourne Park comes with some extra advantages to ensure the competition is not too bothered by unhealthy air and visibility problems. Eight of its tennis courts are indoors, and the stadiums are three-roofed, which as Tiley explains, are instrumental in weather-proofing the venue to allow play even in bad weather.
The troubles that the Open organizers have been preparing for, the series of bushfires that have plagued the interior of Australia since September 2019, have already razed several million hectares of land and killed 24 people along with plenty more wild animals and livestock. The Australian Open has resolved to use the competition to raise funds for the relief of the numerous Australians who have lost much in the flames. The 2020 Australian Open starts its qualifying phase next week on January 14, with the tournament proper on January 20.
Image from Tennis World USA