In what’s believed to be a first for grand slam tennis, the Australian Open was delayed on Thursday because of dirt covering the courts.
Morning rain and an overnight dust storm delayed the start of play on outside courts until 12.30pm.
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The sun was shining and the rain had cleared at Melbourne Park when play started on the three covered arenas, but the outside courts were still wet from from earlier heavy showers.
They were also covered in a layer of ash and dust that combined with the rain to coat the courts.
Tournament officials decided to delay play by an hour so the courts could be pressure-hosed.
“Due to the rain and dust overnight the outside courts need high pressure cleaning, which is currently underway,” the Australian Open’s official Twitter account said.
Due to the rain and dust overnight the outside courts need high pressure cleaning, which is currently underway. Start of play has been delayed until midday. Updates to come.— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2020
American tennis writer Christopher Clarey said it was a ‘first’ for grand slam tennis, while other members of the world’s media were rather taken aback by the strange scenes.
"Rain and dust overnight" - this has to be a first in Grand Slam tennis https://t.co/RhYl3V02Q2— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) January 23, 2020
Rain has helped firefighting efforts in southern Australia, but a clear reminder of the struggle is brown ash, which now covers a lot of the side courts in Melbourne today.— Alex Faust (@alex_faust) January 23, 2020
Luckily, clear conditions expected the next few days. #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/eif8zqWWbE
Kyrgios and Nadal take centre stage
World No.1 Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios remain on target for a tantalising fourth round tussle but still face some formidable obstacles as the Australian Open continues to unfold.
Nadal and Australia's 23rd seed could meet in the last 16 which would be their first encounter since Kyrgios purposely smashed a forehand at Nadal's chest as tempers boiled over during their explosive 2019 Wimbledon clash.
But Kyrgios says he's only thinking about Thursday's second round opponent, veteran Frenchman Gilles Simon, with the pair in action in the night session on Melbourne Arena.
Now ranked world No.61, the former top 20 player showed his class with a round one straight sets win over Pablo Cuevas from Uruguay.
Nadal is the headline act in the night session on Rod Laver Arena and is likely to be too strong for Argentine Federico Delbonis, with the world No.76 passing the first round at Melbourne Park only once before.
Fourth seed Simona Halep, who lost a heart-breaking 2018 Open final, precedes Nadal's night match when she takes on British qualifier Harriet Dart, who is making her first main draw appearance.