Stars swing rac­quets for bush­fire re­lief

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia - Tennis su­per­stars Roger Fed­erer and Rafael Nadal jointly do­nated US$172,000 for Aus­tralian bush­fire re­lief at a char­ity fundraiser in smoggy Mel­bourne on Wed­nes­day.

The two tennis leg­ends, with 39 Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tles be­tween them, were at the Rod Laver Arena in a bid to swell the vast sums al­ready do­nated to help vic­tims of the dev­as­tat­ing dis­as­ter.

They were joined by a who's who of the tennis world, in­clud­ing Ser­ena Wil­liams, Caro­line Woz­ni­acki, No­vak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka, Pe­tra Kvi­tova, Do­minic Thiem, Coco Gauff, Nick Kyr­gios, Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas and Alexan­der Zverev.

"Twenty years this has been my home and I've had so many great matches on this court and in this coun­try," said Ser­ena, whose young daugh­ter Alexis Olympia was thrilled to meet some fire­fight­ers this week.

"And that's we're all here tonight to sup­port and help out."

Tennis Aus­tralia said it ex­pected the ‘Rally for Re­lief’ to raise "hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars" to add to the more than US$1.9mn al­ready stumped up by the global tennis com­mu­nity.

That has in­cluded per­sonal pledges and US$68.95 for each ace hit dur­ing the Aus­tralian tennis swing.

Some of the big names also do­nated mer­chan­dise for an on­line auc­tion on Wed­nes­day.

Ser­ena led a team in Fast4 dou­bles, a short­ened ver­sion of the game, boost­ing Thiem and Kvi­tova, along with Nadal and Djokovic play­ing to­gether on the same side of the net.

They met Woz­ni­acki's side that fea­tured Gauff, Osaka, Zverev and Tsit­si­pas.

But the evening's star turn saw Fed­erer play a set against Aus­tralian bad boy Kyr­gios, who has been driv­ing force be­hind the fundrais­ing ef­fort.

"It's emo­tional stuff," said Kyr­gios. "I just want to have a lit­tle fun out here tonight and hope­fully we can over­come this."

The bush­fires, un­prece­dented in their du­ra­tion and in­ten­sity, have claimed 28 lives, de­stroyed al­most 2,000 homes and razed vast tracts of land.

Toxic haze from the blazes has dis­rupted the build-up to next week's Aus­tralian Open, with qual­i­fy­ing de­layed over the past two days and some play­ers taken ill.

A cool change bring­ing rain swept through on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, rais­ing ex­pec­ta­tions of clearer air for Thurs­day.

Tennis chiefs have in­sisted any delays to the Grand Slam's sched­uled start on Mon­day were un­likely given Mel­bourne Park has three roofed sta­di­ums and eight other in­door courts which could be used in an emer­gency.

The roof of the Rod Laver Arena was closed for the char­ity evening.

Aus­tralian Open qual­i­fy­ing rounds were sus­pended on Wed­nes­day morn­ing and later can­celled as rains be­gan.

(AFP)

Ser­ena Wil­liams (cen­tre) shares a light mo­ment with Rafael Nadal (left) and No­vak Djokovic at the fundraiser event in Mel­bourne on Wed­nes­day

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