January 6, 2020 / 7:52 PM / 21 days ago

Australian Open matches could be suspended over bushfire smoke: organisers

FILE PHOTO: A burning gum tree is felled to stop it from falling on a car in Corbago, as bushfires continue in New South Wales, Australia January 5, 2020. REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy/File Photo

MELBOURNE, Australia (Reuters) - Australian Open organisers are monitoring the deteriorating air quality in Melbourne and said matches could be suspended if conditions become hazardous amid the bushfire crisis.

Hundreds of fires have killed at least 25 people and ravaged more than 8 million hectares (19.8 million acres) of land across Australia over the last few months.

With qualifying for the season’s first Grand Slam starting on Jan. 14, tournament director Craig Tiley said officials can halt play if smoke poses a danger to players’ health.

“Assessing the likelihood of smoke-induced interruptions is a bit like how we treat heat and rain,” he told local media.

“We have access to real-time monitoring of air quality at all of our venues and are working closely with medical personnel and local experts on site to ensure we have the best possible information available to make any decisions ¬≠regarding whether play should be halted at any point.

“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.”

There have so far been no smoke-related delays at the ATP Cup, which is taking place in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

However, this week’s ATP Challenger/ITF Futures tournament scheduled to take place in Canberra was moved to Bendigo, while the capital city’s Brumbies rugby team moved their pre-season training camp to Newcastle.

The Australian Open main draw begins on Jan. 20.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris

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