Australian Open matches could be played on indoor courts if bushfire conditions continue

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The Australian Open action will be played indoors or even delayed if the intense bushfires continue to affect air quality in Melbourne, the organisers of the Grand Slam event said on Tuesday.

The action will be confined to the three stadiums with retractable roofs which also have eight indoor courts on offer.

Australia is reeling from devastating summer fires across its States which have engulfed coastal cities in massive plumes of smoke.

Already the huge bushfires in New South Wales and Victoria have burnt through more than 25.5 million acres of land, killed 25 people and left thousands homeless.

The Australian Open is scheduled to begin on January 20 and seven-time Australian Open champion and world number two Novak Djokovic said he hoped the crisis would “dissipate” soon.

However, the Serbian claims that an action plan would be required to avoid any impact on the health of players.

“You have to always consider it because of some extreme weather and conditions.

“That’s probably the very, very last option.

“But if it comes down to…the conditions affecting the health of players, you have to consider it.

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“It’s tough for them because the schedule has to be respected, the Australian Open starts at a certain time so there are a lot of things involved.

“But a health concern is a health concern for anybody.”

The retractable roofs that could be utilised for the competition are usually used to continue play if rain occurs or even extreme heat conditions plays it part on the competitors.

Play on the other 22 outdoor courts are suspended during this time. The indoor courts are usually used as practice facilities.

“We have three roofed-stadiums and eight indoor courts at Melbourne Park,” Australian Open organisers said on the tournament's official Twitter handle in response to queries on social media.

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“The health of players, fans, and staff is a priority at all times and we will continue to make these decisions with that in mind,” tournament director Craig Tiley told local media on Monday.

Although the tournament has safety measures if the outdoor courts were to be abandoned, it remains unclear where ground pass holders are expected to take cover if matches are abandoned due to the conditions.

During rain or extreme heat conditions, they can usually find shady areas within the Melbourne Park complex to sit it out. However, the majority of these places that are available are also outdoors.

The smoke has so far caused the most disruption to the sporting calendar in Canberra. A Twenty20 cricket match was abandoned on December 21 because of the severe conditions becoming too hazardous for the match to take place.

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