MELBOURNE, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Australian Open practice was temporarily suspended on Tuesday due to poor air quality as bushfires continued to rage across the country.
Tournament organisers said practice at Melbourne Park had been suspended briefly but qualifying matches were scheduled to go ahead at 1100 am local time (0000 GMT).
“Conditions onsite are improving and are being constantly monitored,” a Tennis Australia spokeswoman said.
“Further decisions will be made using onsite data and in close consultation with our medical team, the Bureau of Meteorology and scientists from EPA Victoria.”
Twenty-eight people have been killed and thousands made homeless in recent months as huge fires across the country have scorched through 11.2 million hectares (27.7 million acres), nearly half the area of the United Kingdom.
The bushfires have affected a number of elite sporting competitions involving soccer, rugby league and cricket, and poor air conditions have raised fears for players’ health at tennis’s first Grand Slam.
Australian Open men’s champion Novak Djokovic expressed concern earlier this month that bushfire smoke might cause some health problems for players.
Tournament organisers said last week that play would be confined to Melbourne Park’s three roofed stadiums and eight indoor courts in the “unlikely case of extreme smoke conditions”. (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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