Tennis stars including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Australian Samantha Stosur played an exhibition match yesterday seeking to raise at least A$1 million ($989,000) for flood-stricken Queensland state.
The players, who are in Melbourne for the Grand Slam tournament starting today, appeared at the so-called “Rally for Relief,” Australian Open organizers said in an e-mailed statement. Kim Clijsters, Lleyton Hewitt, Novak Djokovic and Queenslander and former top-ranked player Pat Rafter also played, according to the statement.
They joined other sportspeople in seeking to raise funds for people in Queensland, where more than 28,000 properties have been affected by flooding and at least 28 people have died. Replacing damaged infrastructure alone will cost billions, state Premier Anna Bligh told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. yesterday.
“This is a terrible tragedy, not only the loss of life but the destruction of people’s homes,” Nadal, the top-seeded player for the Open, said in the statement. “I am pleased to be able to contribute in some way to help bring it to the attention of the world and raise some money for the victims in the process.”
Stosur, currently ranked 6th in the world, was born in the Queensland state capital, Brisbane, which is cleaning up after its worst floods since 1974.
The city’s main tennis ground, which was inundated with floodwaters, is named after Rafter, one of the organizers of the event who said Jan. 13 he hopes to raise at least A$1 million. A similar event to raise funds for earthquake relief efforts in Haiti last year raised at least A$500,000, according to Tennis Australia.
Federer contacted Rod Laver, the only player to twice sweep the Grand Slam singles titles in a season, to offer assistance after seeing the Australian’s home town of Rockhampton had been flooded, the Herald Sun newspaper reported.
Lance Armstrong and the other 132 riders competing in this week’s Tour Down Under are also doing their bit. All 12,000 euros in individual prize money from yesterday’s Cancer Council Classic prelude race will be donated to the appeal, organizers said.
The Queensland Reds rugby team’s doctors are providing free medical assistance to anyone affected by the floods.
The Australian Football League is considering a number of proposals to assist with the relief effort, including an All- Stars match, it said in an e-mailed statement.
Football Federation Australia donated A$100,000 to the relief effort and said it will use matches next weekend to help raise more relief funds.
Nadal, 24, needs to win the Australian Open to become the first male player to reign simultaneously as singles champion at all four major tournaments since Laver swept the titles in 1969.
Only Laver, who also accomplished the feat in 1962, and American Don Budge in 1938 have won four in a row in one calendar year.
Spain’s Nadal is the joint 7-4 favorite at bookmaker William Hill Plc in London, along with Switzerland’s Federer. That means a successful $4 bet brings in $7 plus the original stake. Britain’s Andy Murray is third favorite at 6-1 and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic fourth at 13-2.
With Serena Williams of the U.S. out of this year’s women’s event, William Hill makes Kim Clijsters the favorite at 7-4, with fellow Belgian Justine Henin 5-1 and Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki at 6-1.
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