World reacts to 'awful' Aussie Open smoke

 

The tennis world has slammed Australian Open organisers after electing to go ahead with qualifying matches on Tuesday despite Melbourne being blanketed by a smoky haze.

Poor air quality because of bushfires forced qualifying matches to be delayed yesterday morning but they were evntually cleared to go ahead.

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Aussie Bernard Tomic lost in the first round of qualifying for the year's first grand slam, which starts on Monday, and needed medical attention.

"I just can't breathe," he said.

There were also troubling scenes when Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic collapsed to the court due to a coughing fit. Jakupovic, ranked No. 180 in the world, was forced to retire from the match which had gone for just shy of two hours.

The Slovenian put the onus on Australian Open officials, saying the conditions weren't right for matches to go ahead.

"I think it was not fair because it's not healthy for us," she said.

"I was surprised. I thought we would not be playing today but we really don't have much choice.

"If they don't put us on the court, maybe we get fined - I don't know.

"It would be maybe better to see if tomorrow is better. They still have time."

"It was really bad. I never experienced something like this and I was really scared. I was scared that I would collapse. That's why I went on the floor. Because I couldn't walk any more. When I was on the ground it was easier to get some air."

As Jakupovic was being treated by medical staff, former Australian Open semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard called for the doctor after winning the second set and was taken off the court to be treated.

Later in the day during a match between Blaz Kavcic and Jay Clarke, a ballkid collapsed and received medical treatment as both players stopped the game to tend to him.

OTHER STARS SUFFER THROUGH SMOKE HAZE

Eugenie Bouchard also succumbed to the hazardous conditions and had to call for medical assistance following the second set.

Bouchard managed to make it back out onto the court, but as the third set got underway her opponent, Xiaodi You, called for the trainer.

You struggled throughout the entire final set, reverting to serving underarm as her body began to wilt. Bouchard took advantage as she went on to claim the win 4-6, 7-6, 6-1.

"I felt like it was tough to breathe and a bit nauseous. As an athlete we want to be very careful, our physical health is one of the most important things. It's not ideal to play in these conditions," Bouchard said after the match.

World No.5 Elina Svitolina wasn't happy with the conditions players were being forced to compete in with a scathing tweet in the direction of officials.

Across town at the Kooyong Classic, former world number one Maria Sharapova's match against Laura Siegemund was called off after both players agreed to stop play due to the conditions.

"I actually started feeling a little bit of a cough coming out through the end of the second set. I thought I had been sick," Sharapova said.

Siegemund had won the first set with the second tied up, following close to two hours of play when they decided to halt play.

"Both players are feeling the smoke so we are going to stop the match at this point," the umpire said.

STUNNED REACTION TO MATCHES GOING AHEAD

Mandy Minella, the world No. 140 from Luxembourg, tweeted her shock at qualifying being allowed to take place, despite the City of Melbourne Council advising locals to "stay indoors, keep windows and doors shut, and keep pets inside".

As qualifying got underway, Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou tweeted it was "not the best air quality this morning in Melbourne".

British tennis reporters tweeted about Melbourne's air earlier on Tuesday morning as they pondered whether qualifying for the year's first grand slam, which begins next Monday, would be hampered.

Tournament organisers have technology on the ground to assess the air quality to help guide them as to whether conditions are too dangerous for players.

Last week, Australian Open officials said action will be confined to the three stadiums with retractable roofs and eight indoor courts if conditions become hazardous due to the bushfire crisis.

Seven-time Australian Open champion and world No. 2 Novak Djokovic said last week he hoped the crisis would "dissipate" soon but that an action plan would be needed to avoid any impact on the health of players if it did not.

"We have three roofed-stadiums and eight indoor courts at Melbourne Park," Australian Open organisers said on the tournament's official Twitter handle in response to queries on social media.

"In the unlikely case of extreme smoke conditions, the roofs will be closed on the three stadium courts and play will continue in their air-conditioned and air-filtered environment.

"If smoke infiltrates the three stadium courts, the air conditioning system will filter it out."

The retractable roofs are usually used to continue play on the three courts when it rains or in extreme heat conditions.

Play on other 22 outdoor courts are suspended during this time. The indoor courts are usually used as practice facilities.

"The health of players, fans and staff is a priority at all times and we will continue to make these decisions with that in mind," tournament director Craig Tiley said.

With AAP

 

News Corp Australia

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