Sydney: Tennis and cricket stars spearheaded by Nick Kyrgios and Chris Lynn on Friday pledged support for victims of bushfires raging around Australia, donating cash for every ace or six they hit.
The blazes have claimed 18 lives and forced mass evacuations, with the country bracing for a weekend heat wave expected to fan the deadly infernos.
Kyrgios, a controversial figure with a bad boy reputation, has been at the forefront of rallying support and pledged Aus$ 200 (US$140) for each ace he serves across the Australian summer of tennis, starting with the ATP Cup which began Friday.
“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, with Australian veteran Samantha Stosur also pledging $200 per ace.
Kyrgios, who will also play the Kooyong Classic and the Australian Open 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 fund raising 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 is being staged 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 be sent down over the duration of the January 3-12 tournament.
“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 said.
There are fears that smoke haze could impact the tournament in Sydney, with officials relying on on-site medical experts to monitor air quality, although there were no concerns on Friday.
The third cricket Test in Sydney between Australia and New Zealand is also monitoring for smoke, with players wearing black armbands Friday as a mark of respect for those who have died.
Two of the biggest hitters in the game, Lynn and Glenn Maxwell, announced they would donate $250 for every six they smash during the ongoing Big Bash League Twenty20 tournament.
“Hey Guys, for every six I hit in this years Big Bash League I will donate $250 towards the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal,” tweeted Lynn.
“It is special to see so many athletes from various sports getting in behind the real heroes who are fighting to save lives and properties around our country.”
Maxwell, back in action after a short mental health sabbatical, replied: “Love it Lynny!! I'll match you on $250 per six I hit in this years BBL.” D'Arcy Short, who was last week added to Australia's squad for their upcoming one-day tour of India, also jumped on board with the same commitment.