Raging bushfires on Friday forced the Canberra International tennis tournament to be relocated with officials saying play would be unlikely in current conditions. The competition, an ATP Challenger 125 event and on the women’s ITF World Tennis Tour — stepping stones to the full tour — was due to start on Monday. But blazes in the region and smoky conditions forced organisers to pull the pin and move it to Bendigo in Victoria state, some 600 kilometres (around 375 miles) away. “The health of players, fans, volunteers, staff and stakeholders is our biggest priority at all times,” said Tennis ACT chief Kim Kachel.
“Unfortunately, the best advice from the weather and fire experts is that the conditions over the next few days mean it is unlikely there would be any play.”
Among those set to play are eight men in the top 100, including France’s Ugo Humbert, Italian veteran Andreas Seppi and Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Fires have been raging across Australia for weeks, claiming 18 lives and forcing mass evacuations with conditions forecast to worsen at the weekend.
Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley said the unprecedented decision to move the tournament was a result of the most up-to-date and accurate information available.
“We have been closely monitoring the bushfire situation in the region and particularly New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria and are receiving daily updates from the local experts and authorities,” he said.
“We know how important the tournament is for players preparing to play at the Australian Open and the decision to move the tournament from Canberra to Bendigo has been made to ensure they can still compete.”