Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Call to action from Nick Kyrgios inspires Australia's sports stars to join forces in aid of bushfire catastrophe victims

Players from the tennis, cricket, football and basketball worlds all pledge their support to fundraising efforts

Nick Kyrgios defeated Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets at the ATP Cup in Brisbane yesterday. EPA
Nick Kyrgios defeated Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets at the ATP Cup in Brisbane yesterday. EPA

Australian sports stars, inspired in part by a call to action from tennis player Nick Kyrgios, have rallied to raise funds in support of relief and recovery efforts for victims of the country's bushfire catastrophe.

Hundreds of wildfires have scorched more than 13 million acres of bushland and destroyed over 1,000 homes over the last few months.

Kyrgios, the country's best known current tennis player, called on Thursday for the organisation of a fundraising exhibition event ahead of the Australia Open, the year's first grand slam which kicks off in Melbourne on January 20.

He has also promised a A$200 donation for every ace he serves during Australia's summer of tennis and has been joined by a number of fellow players in the drive, including former US Open champion Samantha Stosur.

In his ATP Cup singles match in Brisbane yesterday, 24-year-old Kyrgios hit 20 aces on his way to a 6-4, 7-6 win over Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff.

His hometown of Canberra has been severely affected by the bushfires, with worsening air quality impacting the town where his mother still lives.

“Just seeing my hometown almost being on the alert and having, like, just the worst air quality in the world literally at the moment. It's just sad to see and it's just tough,” Kyrgios said. “It's tough to go out there and concentrate on tennis, to be honest. Every ace I was hitting that's all I was thinking about. Every time I stepped up to the line, that's all I was thinking about.”

Australian cricketers Glenn Maxwell and Chris Lynn pledged A$250 (Dh637) for every six they hit during the Big Bash League Twenty20 tournament.

There have also been pledges of help from A-League soccer clubs in the state of Victoria and American basketballer LaMelo Ball – a top-five NBA draft prospect – who has offered to donate one month's salary from the Illawarra Hawks.

Tennis Australia said on Friday that it would hold a "Rally for Relief" exhibition match at the Rod Laver Arena on January 15 to help raise funds, while proceeds from a Jessica Mauboy concert on the eve of the Open will also be donated to the Red Cross appeal.

Kyrgios said he would be at the exhibition and while no other names have been confirmed, most of the best tennis players in the world are already in Australia for the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup and other warm-up tournaments.

Hazardous smoke from the fires forced the abandonment of a Big Bash match in the nation's capital on December 21 and organisers, anticipating similar disruption, decided on Friday to move the Canberra International tennis tournament.

The ATP Challenger/ITF Futures tournament, scheduled to take place in Canberra next week, has been moved to the city of Bendigo.

Sporting events went ahead under sunny skies in Sydney on Friday with no sign of the thick layer of smoke that has shrouded the city on several occasions over the last few months.

The third cricket Test between Australia and New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground got underway in front of a big crowd under sunny skies after a minute of applause for the emergency services fighting the fires.

Organisers have prepared for smoke delays during the match with all eyes on Saturday when temperatures are set to soar above 40°C.

Updated: January 3, 2020 02:33 PM

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