Australian Open organizers plan to move matches indoors if courts are affected by bushfires

Tennis' first Grand Slam tournament of the 2020 season is set to begin in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 20, but the raging bushfires that continue to devastate the southeast parts of Australia threaten to cause disruptions in the tournament's schedule.

On Tuesday, Australian Open officials shared on Twitter that the tournament will likely go ahead as planned, but organizers have created plans to move matches indoors, if the conditions from the fires worsen. The tournament organizers note the Australian Open has three stadiums with retractable roofs (Rod Laver, Margaret Court, Melbourne Arenas) and eight indoor courts, also adding that the roofs will be closed in the case of extreme smoke, and the air conditioning system would filter it out.

On Saturday during a press conference, defending Australian Open men's champion and president of the ATP player council Novak Djokovic said delaying the start of the tournament "is probably the very, very last option."

"I think they're going to try to do anything to not delay anything in terms of days and when it starts," Djokovic said. "But if it comes down to ... those conditions affecting the health of players, I think we should definitely consider it." He also said that the air quality would be a discussion at the next players' council meeting, held before the Australian Open, especially if the conditions worsen. 

Djokovic added that players have dealt with poor air quality at some tournaments in China.

"But this is something different," he said. "I really never had this kind of experience before. I hope that it's going to dissipate, that this is something that is very temporary."

The Canberra International tennis tournament, a local lead-up tournament for the Open, was scheduled to begin play on Monday in Canberra, but organizers were forced to relocate to Bendigo due to the worsening air quality from the smoke from the fires. The air quality in Canberra -- Australia's capital -- was recently rated as one of the worst of any major city in the world.

Australian native and No. 29-ranked Nick Kyrigos, recently pledged to donate $200 to relief and recovery efforts for every ace during the Australia summer season tournaments. Following Kyrigos' commitment to the victims of the bushfires, Team Australia announced that they will host a charity exhibition match on Jan. 15 in Melbourne and donate $100 ace for every ace hit to the Australian Red Cross.

Katherine Acquavella joined CBS Sports in 2018. Her work has appeared in Yankees Magazine and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's Memories and Dreams magazine. She is a graduate of St. John's... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories