Djokovic concerned about bushfire smoke

Laine Clark
Novak Djokovic is concerned the bushfires may affect the health of players at the Australian Open

Organisers may have to consider delaying the start of the Australian Open if Melbourne's air quality continues to be affected by bushfires, defending men's champion Novak Djokovic says.

Djokovic - who is also the ATP Player Council president - said he was concerned about potential health issues at Melbourne Park and believed measures may have to be put in place to protect players if the air quality continues to deteriorate.

Djokovic said the ATP Player Council would meet ahead of the season-opening grand slam to discuss options but admitted delaying the start may have to be considered.

"You have to consider it because of some extreme weather or conditions," he said after winning his ATP Cup opener against South Africa's Kevin Anderson on Saturday night.

"That's probably the very, very last option.

"(But) if it comes down to ...the conditions affecting the health of players, you have to consider it."

Djokovic said his camp had been in close contact with Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley and had been monitoring air quality in not only Melbourne but also Sydney where the ATP Cup finals are scheduled to be held.

"People from my team have spoken to Craig Tiley, they are obviously tracking the situation every day as it is evolving," he said.

"If it continues the same way and quality of air is affected in Sydney I think Tennis Australia will be forced create some rules about it.

"It is tough for them because the schedule has to be respected, the Australian Open starts at a certain time so there are a lot of things involved.

"But a health concern is a health concern for anybody."

Djokovic said he had experienced air quality issues in tournaments in China but admitted the bushfires that had ravaged Australia had created something unprecedented.

"I know in China the playing conditions are very tough in terms of quality of air but this is something different - I have never had this kind of experience before," he said.

"We will see. I hope it is going to dissipate but if it stays like that, we have a council meeting in a week or 10 days and we will discuss that (air quality measures) for sure if the conditions stay the same."

ATP Council vice-president Anderson said he was not sure of what measures would be introduced to protect players from poor air quality.

But he hinted at an air quality index being used at Sydney's ATP Cup Finals and the Australian Open as a gauge to indicate whether it was safe for players to compete.

"First and foremost it has been so sad to see everything that has been going on, to see the extent of it (bushfires)," Anderson said.

"A distant second is the air quality and us being able to perform.

"But it is hazardous. I think that is one of the concerns.

"Hopefully it won't be an issue but if it is we will definitely need to have that conversation about whether it is dangerous to be out there."