Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will take part in an exhibition match on 15 January to help raise money for bushfire relief in Australia.
Communities across the whole country have been devastated by the bushfire crisis and at this time of the year, with our events in full swing, tennis has a unique opportunity to support the relief and recovery efforts. Tom Larner, ATP Cup Tournament Director
The match is five days before the start of the Australian Open, and will take place at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena.
Australian Nick Kyrgios will also be playing, along with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Naomi Osaka and Caroline Wozniacki.
The bushfires in Australia have killed at least 25 people since September and millions of animals have also died as almost 2,500 homes have been destroyed.
While milder weather brought brief respite last weekend, fire crews are again preparing for worsening conditions with temperatures predicted to soar on Friday.
“For a period of about two and a half hours we’re going to be showcasing the game, but also coming together as a community to play our part in the relief effort,” said Tennis Australia Chief Craig Tiley.
Kyrgios is donating 200 Australian dollars (£106) for every ace he hits in events held in Australia in January as part of the fundraising effort, while compatriot Ashleigh Barty will donate all of her prize money from the Brisbane International.
Meanwhile, a group of 9 Australian players from the National Basketball Association (NBA) have pledged 750,000 Australian dollars (£392,000) towards the relief and recovery efforts.
Ben Simmons, Aron Baynes, Jonah Bolden, Ryan Broekhoff, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Joe Ingles, Thon Maker and Patty Mills are the players involved.
“We are heartbroken over the devastation these fires are causing all across our homeland,” the players said.
“Our thoughts are with our families, friends and all of the people of Australia. We hope you feel our love and support and know that we will continue to bring awareness to this crisis globally and provide assistance in any way we can.”
Every ace served at the ATP Cup in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney, is raising money for the Australian Red Cross bushfire disaster relief and recovery efforts.
With more than 1500 aces expected to be served by singles and doubles players across both the group rounds and Final Eight in Sydney, the ATP Cup contribution is expected to exceed $150,000.
“Communities across the whole country have been devastated by the bushfire crisis and at this time of the year, with our events in full swing, tennis has a unique opportunity to support the relief and recovery efforts,” ATP Cup Tournament Director Tom Larner said.
“Most of the players are already keen to score aces and win a quick point, and having the chance to raise money for the bushfire appeal will give them that extra bit of motivation.
“As a sport we also believe it’s important to recognise the tremendous contribution made by our volunteer firefighters, emergency services workers and community volunteers who come from every walk of life.
“We know many of them are also members of our tennis family and this initiative is just one way we can acknowledge their selflessness and bravery.”
ATP Cup players are also getting involved individually, with Team Australia’s Alex de Minaur, Nick Kyrgios, John Millman and John Peers all pledging personal donations for every ace they serve.
Novak Djokovic announced on Twitter that he will donate $25,000 to the cause, matching Maria Sharapova’s contribution.
The fundraising initiative is jointly funded by the ATP, Tennis Australia, Tennis New South Wales, Tennis Queensland and Tennis West.
The WTA has also announced its support of Tennis Australia’s bushfire disaster relief effort, pledging to donate $100 AUD for every ace served in singles and doubles at the Brisbane International, the ASB Classic in Auckland, Adelaide International and the Hobart International.
“Australia has been an integral part of the WTA Tour for decades and our hearts go out to all the individuals, families and communities that have been affected by these devastating fires,” said Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO.
“The Tour and its players support the relief efforts of Tennis Australia and the Australian Red Cross, and we will continue to work closely with these organisations on fundraising opportunities and harness the power of our sport to support those in need.”
In addition, WTA players are offering support and raising awareness through video messages and fundraising opportunities on social media channels directing donations to the Australian Red Cross and with hashtags #Aces4BushfireRelief and #WTA4Love.
The players will also be donating signed items to Tennis Australia to be auctioned off in a further fundraising effort.
Many players have announced their own personal pledges to help the victims of the bushfires, either through direct donations, their own personal ace tally or donating their total prize money from an event.
Donations to the Australian Red Cross bushfire disaster relief and recovery efforts can be made at www.redcross.org.au/tennis.
Meanwhile, matches at the upcoming Australian Open could be limited to retractable-roof venues and indoor courts if the ongoing bushfires in the country prove too hazardous, organisers have said.
The 2020 edition of the Grand Slam will be held from 20 January – 2 February at Melbourne Park, which has 3 retractable-roof stadia in the shape of Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Arena and Margaret Court Arena.
The ongoing bushfires have led to air-quality issues in Melbourne and organisers said earlier this week that there were no plans to move events amid concerns that the tournament could be delayed.
A contingency plan has now been outlined by organisers via the tournament’s official Twitter account.
Responding to fans, the account said: “We have three roofed stadiums and eight indoor courts at Melbourne Park.
“In the unlikely case of extreme smoke conditions, the roofs will be closed on the three stadium courts and play will continue in their air-conditioned and air-filtered environment.
“If smoke infiltrates the three stadium courts, the air conditioning system will filter it out.”
Novak Djokovic, World No 2 and ATP Players’ Council President, said at the weekend that his organisation had held discussions with Tennis Australia Chief Executive Craig Tiley concerning the Australian Open and would meet ahead of the tournament to discuss options.
Melbourne’s rating on the Air Quality Index stood at 156 on Monday, ranking in the ‘unhealthy’ category.
Weather conditions are expected to improve in the coming weeks.
Last Friday, Tennis Australia was forced to move this week’s Canberra International tournament to Bendigo in Victoria, some 370 miles away, amid risks caused by the ongoing bushfires and smoke haze in the capital.