Wildfires near Canberra forces tennis tournament to move

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              A pedestrian wears a mask as smoke shrouds the Australian capital of Canberra, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Australia deployed military ships and aircraft to help communities ravaged by apocalyptic wildfires that destroyed homes and sent thousands of residents and holidaymakers fleeing to the shoreline. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Canberra International tennis tournament scheduled to begin Monday will relocate to a city about 600 kilometers (370 miles) away because of continuing wildfires and smoke haze in the region, officials said.

The event is on the ATP Challenger Tour and the ITF Women’s circuit.

Tennis ACT chief executive Kim Kachel said Friday that the decision to move the tournament to Bendigo was made after consultation with the local authorities.

“The health of players, fans, volunteers, staff and stakeholders is our biggest priority at all times,” Kachel said. “Unfortunately, the best advice from the weather and fire experts is that the conditions over the next few days mean it is unlikely there would be any play. With conditions too unpredictable the decision was made to relocate at the earliest available opportunity.”

Bendigo is about 600 kilometers (370 miles) east of Canberra and in an area of Victoria not badly affected by bushfires in that state.