Players to hold exhibition to aid Australia flood victims

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and other top players will play exhibition matches at Melbourne Park Sunday to raise money for victims of devastating floods that have ravaged wide swathes of Australia’s northern Queensland state.

Floods across an area the size of Germany and France combined have killed at least 18 people and left thousands more homeless, with whole towns devastated and a damage bill estimated by some economists to be up to A$6 billion.

“Along with many of the other players I was moved by the devastation caused by the floods in Australia,” Federer said on Thursday.

“We just wanted to do something to help aid the recovery because we know there are thousands of Australians who will continue to suffer as a result of this disaster.”

Seventy-eight people remain missing and officials have warned of further severe flooding to come, with the wet season far from over and dams already at bursting point.

Belgian Kim Clijsters, Australians Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt, and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic will also be taking part in the matches at Rod Laver Arena.

“If the tennis community can also help play a role in the recovery then we should, both in Australia and internationally,” former world number one Hewitt said. “I just think at a time like this it is a case of getting all hands on deck.”

The “Rally for Relief” event kicks off at Rod Laver Arena at 2pm local time (10 a.m. ET), with tickets A$20.

Top players held a similar charity event for victims of the Haiti earthquake last year and raised $185,000.

The January 17-30 Australian Open kicks off Monday.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford