Sydney: Nick Kyrgios has pledged Aus$200 (US$140) for each ace he serves across the Australian summer of tennis to support victims of bushfires raging around the country, with the ATP Cup Friday also promising help.
The temperamental Australian, a controversial figure in the sport with a bad boy reputation, has been at the forefront of rallying support among players to help.
“I’m kicking off the support for those affected by the fires. I’ll be donating $200 per ace that I hit across all the events I play this summer,” tweeted the 24-year-old, who was handed a 16-week suspended ban in September after a series of outbursts.
His Australian teammate at the inaugural ATP Cup Alex de Minaur went one better. “I like this, I will go $250 per ace, just because I don’t think I’ll be hitting as many aces as you mate,” he replied.
The blazes have claimed 18 lives and forced mass evacuations, with the country bracing for a weekend heatwave expected to fan the deadly infernos.
Kyrgios, who will also play the Kooyong Classic and the Australian Open Grand Slam this month, on Thursday issued a call for fundraisers for victims of the fires, which prompted Australia’s tennis chief Craig Tiley to get on board.
“We want to help these communities in a meaningful way and will announce a number of fundraising and support initiatives that will be rolled out across the ATP Cup, Australian Open and our other events over the coming weeks,” said Tiley.
The fires have been a big talking point ahead of the 24-team ATP Cup, which gets underway Friday in Brisbane, Perth, and Sydney with top names including Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal playing.
Tournament director Tom Larner announced that each ace served at the 10-day event would deliver Aus$100 to bushfire relief. The initiative is forecast to raise around Aus$150,000, with more than 1,500 aces expected to sent down over the duration of the January 3-12 tournament.
“Communities across the whole country have been devastated by the bushfire crisis and at this time of the year, with our events in full swing, tennis has a unique opportunity to support the relief and recovery efforts,” he said.
“Most of the players are already keen to score aces and win a quick point, and having the chance to raise money for the bushfire appeal will give them that extra bit of motivation,” he added.
ATP Cup officials will be relying on on-site medical experts to monitor air quality in Sydney, where cricket and golf events have been affected by haze from the fires in recent weeks.
However, players have said they were not worried about smoky conditions.