SYDNEY • Some of Australia's biggest athletes, sparked in part by a call to action from tennis star Nick Kyrgios, have rallied to raise funds in support of relief and recovery efforts for victims of the country's bush-fire catastrophe.
Hundreds of wildfires have scorched more than 5.25 million hectares of bushland and destroyed over 1,000 homes over the last few months.
World No. 30 Kyrgios on Thursday called for the organisation of a fundraising exhibition event ahead of the Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam which kicks off in Melbourne on Jan 20.
That snowballed into a pledge of A$250 (S$235) for every six hit by cricketers Glenn Maxwell and Chris Lynn during the Big Bash League Twenty20 tournament, while Australia's cricketers will auction off signed shirts from the third Test against New Zealand in Melbourne.
Financial help has also been offered from A-League football clubs in Victoria state.
Australian National Basketball League player LaMelo Ball, the brother of Lonzo who plays for National Basketball Association team New Orleans Pelicans, will donate a month's salary.
The 18-year-old Illawarra Hawks guard said yesterday: "It's sad to see what is happening... People have lost their homes and everything they own.
FOR A GOOD CAUSE
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.
NICK KYRGIOS, Australian tennis star, after serving 20 aces in his ATP Cup match. He has pledged to donate A$200 to bush-fire victims for every service winner this month.
"My parents taught me to help out wherever I can, so this is my way of helping out."
Yesterday, Kyrgios served 20 aces in beating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) for a win that cost him A$4,000 and helped set up Australia's 3-0 opening ATP Cup win over Germany.
The 24-year-old Australian has promised to donate A$200 for every ace he serves at all his competitions this month, with compatriots Samantha Stosur, Alex de Minaur and John Millman joining his drive.
Tennis Australia has already committed A$100 for every ace served at the inaugural tournament, and its chief, Craig Tiley, said: "It is heartbreaking to see so many people and communities suffering.
"We are working closely with the top players and have already had a great response, with many of them keen to help this incredibly important cause."
For the Australian Open, Tennis Australia yesterday revealed that it would hold a "Rally for Relief" exhibition match at the Rod Laver Arena on Jan 15 to help raise funds.
Proceeds from a Jessica Mauboy concert on the eve of the tournament will also be donated to the Red Cross appeal.
Hazardous smoke from the fires forced the abandonment of a Big Bash match in the capital on Dec 21 and organisers, anticipating similar disruption, decided yesterday to move the Canberra International tennis tournament to Bendigo.
Sporting events went ahead under sunny skies in Sydney yesterday, including the ATP Cup and the third cricket Test.
There were no signs of the thick layer of smoke that has shrouded the city occasionally over the last few months.
But smoke delays are expected today with temperatures set to soar above 40 deg C.
ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS