Sunday, 05 July, 2020


Australian Open qualifying player collapses on court as bushfire smoke chokes Melbourne

Noah Ferguson | 14 January, 2020, 10:51

The air quality index in Melbourne on Tuesday morning was over 200 - meaning hazardous - as smoke from bushfires raging across the country blanketed Melbourne in a thick, grey haze.

Bouchard returned to play the final set following the medical timeout, and won 4-6 7-6 6-1.

Players and one prominent coach voiced concerns after the sudden deterioration in conditions, following months of deadly bushfires that have engulfed huge swathes of the Australian countryside.

Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton said he believed Melbourne's air quality had dropped to "the worst in the world".

The City of Melbourne issued warnings to its citizens and their pets to stay inside wherever possible.

"Conditions onsite are improving and are being constantly monitored", a Tennis Australia statement read.

Ranked world number 180, Jakupovic was a set up and one point away from a tiebreak in the second set when she suffered the breathing difficulties and subsequently withdrew from the match.

"Not the best air quality this morning in #Melbourne", tweeted Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams' coach, with a photo of the city shrouded in smog.

Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic was leading her round one Open qualifying match against Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele when she collapsed to her knees with a coughing fit on Tuesday afternoon.

Taking on German Laura Siegemund in the Australian Open warm-up tournament, the players and officials made a decision to stop play at 5-5 in the second set.

She is set to be followed by Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov facing Croat Borna Coric.

Former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard also survived a gruelling battle in Melbourne's smoke to scrape through the first round of Australian Open qualifying.

"Shocked to see that qualifying matches have started @Australian Open". "What about the health of all the people that have to work out there, especially the ballkids?"

And America's Noah Rubin complained on Twitter that players weren't being kept up to date, saying "lack of information on how to proceed is scary".

Her retirement came only hours after tournament director Craig Tiley defended the decision to proceed with qualifiers after they were initially delayed due to poor air quality.

"This is a new experience for all of us in how we manage air quality, so we have to listen to the experts", Tiley said.

Tournament organizers said last week that play would be confined to Melbourne Park's three roofed stadiums and eight indoor courts in the "unlikely case of extreme smoke conditions".

"Assessing the likelihood of smoke-induced interruptions is a bit like how we treat heat and rain".

But dozens of other sports fixtures have gone ahead.

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