Sport Tennis Kyrgios, Federer star at AO’s Rally for Relief
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Kyrgios, Federer star at AO’s Rally for Relief

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The Rally for Relief raised $4,826,014 with more funds on the way over the next two weeks of the grand slam. Photo: AAP
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The stars of world tennis came together at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Wednesday night to raise funds for bushfire-ravaged communities at the Australian Open’s Rally for Relief event.

The event was suggested by Australia’s No.30 Nick Kyrgios almost two weeks ago as part of his own fundraising pledge where he announced he would donate $200 for every ace he hit this summer.

Despite heavy rain hitting Melbourne late on Wednesday afternoon, thousands of fans headed to Melbourne Park to watch the game’s top players including Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev turn up for some fun before next week’s Australian Open begins on January 20.

Wearing microphones and split into two teams, the world’s best players laughed and joked their way through a Fast Four Doubles event, highlighted by Nadal and Djokovic’s teasing of young guns Tsitsipas and Zverev about age difference and experience.

Djokovic: “See? Next gen … how slow they are?”

Nadal: “Yeah”

Djokovic: “Look at this guys, 60 plus years here!” (referring to the fact that between them they have a combined age of 65 and have won 35 grand slams between them).

A relaxed and smiling Nadal (leaving behind his routine of lining up his water bottles and pre-serve mannerisms), teamed up with CFA volunteer firefighter Deb Boirg, while Williams and Osaka shared a courtside bench together with Djokovic serving them iced drinks on his tennis racket and at one stage Tsitsipas was happy to play ballboy.

Then it was down to business.

Roger Federer took on Kyrgios as the centrepiece of Wednesday night’s event and prevailed 7-6 (8-6).

“I’ve got goosebumps … everyone came together and it’s just an amazing feeling,” Kyrgios said after the match. “It’s been an emotional couple of weeks.

“When I was back home in Canberra, I couldn’t even go outside (due to bushfire smoke) … and I’m just so happy that we had Roger, Rafa, Novak – some of the greats – to get behind this.

“The awareness has grown and I think we’re doing everything we possibly can to overcome this.”

With select firefighters and emergency personnel looking on from courtside seats, Kyrgios saved two set points before Federer prevailed in an entertaining encounter.

The six-time Australian Open champion and world No.3 moved well, ahead of his 20th assault on the season-opening grand slam at Melbourne Park.

But a competitive hit-out wasn’t really his goal.

“What I wanted to do was raise awareness, raise money and tell people to still come and travel to Australia because people probably think around the world that you can’t right now,” Federer said.

“That was the idea.

“And to have some fun, have a hit with Nick … we get along very well.

“We’ve had some epic matches over the years and this was fun … it wasn’t about winning and losing.”

The Swiss master also dipped into his own pocket, combining with Nadal to make a $250,000 donation, with fundraising efforts to continue during the Australian Open.

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The Rally For Relief has been held before, raising money and awareness for the Queensland floods in 2011. Photo: AAP

 

-with AAP