Barty: Bushfire recovery more important than AO win

MELBOURNE, Australia -- World No. 1 Ash Barty would value the rebuilding of her native Australia in the wake of devastating bushfires -- which have claimed 28 lives and destroyed millions of wild animals -- over winning her home Grand Slam.

The 23-year-old Queenslander, who booked her place in the last 32 of the Australian Open on Wednesday with a straight sets win over Slovenia's Polona Hercog, was asked if winning the tournament at Melbourne Park would be a symbolic moment for a nation in the middle of an environmental crisis.

"There are so many other, bigger things going on in Australia right now. Tennis is a game," Barty said. "First and foremost, it's about the safety and well-being of Aussies all across the nation, the wildlife and everything.

"It's unfortunate it's been going on for a couple of months. I'd prioritize the safety and rebuilding parts of our nation which have been destroyed over [playing] a tennis match every day of the week. I don't think anyone could care less if an Aussie wins it or not."

Barty's comments came 12 hours after No. 7 seed Alexander Zverev made a monumental pledge toward the bushfire relief.

Following his first-round win over Marco Cecchinato, Zverev told the Margaret Court Arena crowd that he would be contributing AU$10,000 for each of his wins during his 2020 Australian Open campaign. He also promised to donate the entire AU$4.12 million in prize money if he were to capture his maiden Slam in Melbourne.

Also Tuesday, ESPN commentator and seven-time major winner John McEnroe dug into his pockets, pledging AU$1,000 for each set Aussie Nick Kyrgios wins throughout the tournament.

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Barty: I don't think anyone could care less if an Aussie wins

Ashleigh Barty downplays the symbolism of an Australian winning the Open in the wake of the bushfire crisis.

Barty said the "amazing" support from the tennis community is special, but she is proudest of how many Australians have rallied in such tragic circumstances.

"It's been incredible, but I think it goes beyond the tennis community," Barty said. "The whole nation is coming together, and that's what is amazing about Australians. When our backs are against the walls, we support each other and come together.

"There's been generosity from people around the globe trying to donate and try and help because every single bit helps. Whether it's big or small, it makes a massive difference. It's been amazing to be a very small part of the donations.

"The work everyone is doing, from the firefighters to the volunteers, it's been remarkable."

Barty will play No. 29 Elena Rybakina -- whom she has never faced -- in the third round, with a place in the last 16 up for grabs.