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Federer, Serena headline Aussie bushfire charity match

Roger Federer will be among the superstars who will headline an exhibition match ahead of the Australian Open to raise money for bushfire relief © AFP/File / STR

MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan 8Superstars Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will headline an exhibition match ahead of the Australian Open to raise money for bushfire relief, organisers said Wednesday.

Dozens of vast blazes, which continue to burn across eastern Australia, have killed 25 people since the start of the disaster in September and destroyed more than 1,800 homes.

Milder conditions are providing a reprieve for firefighters, although more dangerous weather is forecast for later in the week.

Tennis Australia last week announced a fundraising exhibition match at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena — centre court at the Australian Open — for January 15, the week before the opening Grand Slam of the year.

The players were revealed Wednesday with Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki, Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas joining Federer, Williams and Nadal.

“For a period of about two-and-a-half hours we’re going to be showcasing the game, but also coming together as a community to play our part in the relief effort,” said Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley.

The devastation has seen a host of sports stars pledge money, with more than Aus$1.2 million (US$820,000) raised so far from an initiative by tennis chiefs to donate Aus$100 for each ace served during the Australian summer.

There have been fears that smoke haze could affect the Australian Open, but Tiley on Tuesday said this was unlikely.

“All the information we have at the moment, with qualifying coming up next week, is that the forecast is good, we don’t expect any delays and we’ve implemented additional measures to ensure the Australian Open will be able to run as scheduled,” he said.

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Tiley pointed to Melbourne Park having three roofed stadiums and eight other indoor courts which “effectively weather-proof the Australian Open”.

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