10 January 2020

Tennis and the Bush Fire crisis

Just watching from afar the bush fires raging in Australia has been disturbing enough, but as the tennis season turns to the southern hemisphere, many of the professional players have been more directly caught up in the drama. Their response, led by Ash Barty and Nick Kyrgios, has been inspiring

Ash Barty’s “it isn’t about me” attitude to her tennis has not gone unnoticed by the Australian press (or the world’s press come to that). Only recently the Sydney Morning Herald praised it, wondering if the down-to-earth world number one might be the saviour of Australian tennis. But Barty, with fellow Aussie Nick Kyrgios, is also becoming the symbol of tennis players' generosity in the face of the bushfire crisis.

Barty recently pledged to donate any prize money from the Brisbane International to the Australian Red Cross (had she won, it would have been more than A$360,000). A passionate animal lover, and self confessed ‘crazy dog lady, who Facetimes her pets so they can hear her voice, she also donated A$30,000 to the RSPCA last year during the bushfires (one billion animals are now estimated to have been killed).  It is also personal for Barty. Her father is a Ngarigo Indigenous Australian, who comes from New South Wales, close to Victoria, were the worst of the fires are raging and, very proud of her roots, Barty is National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador for Tennis Australia. According to ABC News, fire practices of indigenous people have been used to quell bushfires for thousands of years and their expertise is now being desperately sought. 

Kyrgios meanwhile suggested the idea of a charity tennis match and Tennis Australia has announced the AO Rally for Relief at the Rod Laver Arena on 15 January. Kyrgios, with Roger Federer, Serena Willimas, Rafa Nadal, Stefanos Tstisipas, Naomi Osaka and Caroline Wozniacki and others will taking part.  Players are also pledging money for aces  ($100 to $200 is the going rate) and the ATP and Tennis Autralia are also donating $100 for every ace serve.

Tennis Australia is asking fans to post videos of their own aces with the #Aces4BushfireRelief hashtag. 

Not known for her ace serves, Simona Halep, reckoned she would raise more money with outbursts and has promised to donate $200 every time she gives her coach, Darren Cahill, a hard time during all her matches in Australia. He said he would put in $50 every time she did. Alize Cornet’s fundraising shot of choice is the drop shot. She has committed $50 per drop shot winner. Maria Sharapova tweeted that she would be donating an initial A$25,000 and asked Novak Djokovic to match it. (He did). 

But it is perhaps the Aussies who feel it most. Australian cricketer Shane Warne auctioned his legendary 'baggy green' cap (given to Australian players when they make their Test debut) and it made an astonishing $1m and Kyrgios has already raised $4,000 with his aces. The air in his home town, Canberra, is so bad the Apis Canberra International had to be moved from Canberra to Bendigo. "It's got most toxic air in the world," said Kyrgios who has been moved to tears by the disaster. "That's sad. It is tough."

You can donate at  redcross.com.au/tennis