Australian Open: players fear for health while Melbourne is hampered by smoke from forest fires

Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia led 6-4 5-6 against the Swiss Stefanie Vogele, but could not finish her service game at the end of the second set.

“It was very difficult for me to breathe throughout the game. After 20 minutes I already had difficulties,” Jakupovic told Amanda Davies of CNN.

“I couldn’t make more than three shots running from left to right because I was already suffering from an asthma attack. Normally I don’t have asthma.”

‘Panic attack’

Jakupovic said a physio gave him a breathing apparatus in the first set, but he began to feel worse at the end of the second.

“I just couldn’t breathe,” he said. “I couldn’t walk, so I just fell (to the floor) because I couldn’t stand up straight.”

“After that I had a panic attack because I couldn’t breathe. I must say it was very difficult. It was one of my most difficult games.”

The practice for players already qualified for the Australian Open was temporarily suspended in Melbourne on Tuesday because the smoke from the fires, which have been burning across the country for months, affected most of the state of Victoria.
Air quality was rated in Melbourne “moderate to dangerous” due to smoke, according to the Victoria Environmental Protection Authority, which recommended people stay indoors.
At least 28 people have died as a result of fires this season. More than 3,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged in the state of New South Wales while authorities have struggled to contain widespread fires.
READ: Rafael Nadal hits fans after the defeat of the ATP Cup by Novak Djokovic
A fan wears a respiratory mask during the Australian Open qualifying matches.

Jakupovic was not the only player to comment on dangerous conditions before the first Grand Slam of the year.

“Why should we wait for something bad to happen to do an action (sic)”? tweeted world number 5, Elina Svitolina.

Frenchman Gilles Simon was also critical of the tournament organizers.

“When we have doctors who claim that playing at 45 degrees is not dangerous at the Australian Open and referees who claim that wet grass is not slippery in Wimbledon, we should be able to find an expert who can certify that the air quality is sufficient. Noel tweeted Tuesday.

The organizers of the Australian Open said conditions were improving and “constantly being monitored.”

“As always, the health and safety of our players, our staff and our fans are our priority,” said a statement, adding that more decisions would be made using data on the site, consultations with the medical team, the Meteorology Office and EPA Victoria scientists.

READ: Nick Kyrgios criticizes the Australian Prime Minister for the “slow” response to forest fires

The Kooyong Classic in the suburbs of Melbourne, one of several warm-up tournaments before the Australian Open, was also affected by smoke.

Maria Sharapova’s game against Germany’s Laura Siegemund was interrupted with the players tied at 5-5 in the second set.

“After two and a half hours that was the right decision for me. I think we are both sorry,” Sharapova told reporters.

Maria Sharapova's game against Laura Siegemund in the Kooyong Classic 2020 in Melbourne had to be canceled after both players were affected by the smoke.
In a series of Twitter posts last week, the organizers of the Australian Open indicated that the tournament would probably take place as planned, although defending champion Novak Djokovic had said that delaying the start of the tournament should be considered given The extreme nature of fires.

“In the unlikely event of extreme smoke conditions, the roofs will close on the three stadium courts and the game will continue in its air-conditioned and air-filtered environment,” the official account tweeted.

“If the smoke infiltrates the three stadium courts, the air conditioning system will filter it.”

READ: Serena Williams wins the first title since she had her daughter three years ago

Three of the Australian Open exhibition grounds in Melbourne Park – Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and Melbourne Arena – have retractable roofs that are closed in case of rain or extreme heat, and the site also houses the National Tennis Center, which has eight more covered courts.

Players and organizations throughout the sport are committed to supporting relief efforts for forest fires.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios pledged to donate $ 140 ($ 200 AUSD) for each ace he hits in the upcoming tournaments, an offer that has prompted similar gestures from other players.
Sharapova agreed to donate $ 17,400 (25,000 AUSD), a sum that was matched by Djokovic.

The Australian Open will also organize a rally rally for help in Melbourne Park on Wednesday, which will feature Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The Grand Slam starts next week and runs from January 20 to February 2.

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