Novak Djokovic says a delay to the start of the Australian Open may need to be considered as the devastating effect of the bushfires continues to grow. At least 20 people have died and more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed in blazes which have ravaged the country in recent months.
At least eight people have died this week in New South Wales and neighbouring Victoria, Australia’s two most populous states, where more than 200 fires are currently burning.
In central Melbourne, smoke from the East Gippsland fires hit the city, where the first Grand Slam is due to get underway on January 20.
And there is concern that the conditions, which have caused air quality problems may force Australian Open officials into an unprecedented decision.
In Brisbane, where he is representing Serbia at the ATP Cup, Djokovic was asked about what tennis officials should do about the ongoing problem.
And the 32-year-old said the ‘very last option’ of a delay may need to be considered.
He said: “You have to consider it because of some extreme weather or conditions. But that’s probably the very, very last option.
“I think they are going to try to do everything to [not] delay 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.”
“It is tough for them because the schedule has to be respected, the Australian Open starts at a certain time so there are a lot of different things involved.
“But a health concern is a health concern for me and for anybody.
“I know in China the playing conditions are pretty tough in terms of quality of air but this is something different – I have never had this kind of experience before.
“We will see. I hope it is going to dissipate but if it stays like that, we have a council meeting in a week or 10 days and we will discuss that for sure if the conditions stay the same.”