We’re getting alarming news from the WTA players in Melbourne now that the start of main-draw play at the Australian Open is just days away, as smoke from the devastating bushfires is seriously polluting the air. Slovenian world No.180 Dalila Jakupovic was virtually suffocating during her first round match in the Australian Open qualifying and had to retire, while Maria Sharapova‘s exhibition match was stopped late in the second set because of smoke.
Awful scenes in Melbourne.
— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) January 14, 2020
Jakupovic won the first set against Swiss Stefanie Vogele, but at 5-6 in the second set she was on her knees because of dizziness. The Slovene retired, dissatisfied by the decision not to cancel play, as Melbourne citizens were advised to stay indoors and keep windows and doors shut because of poor air quality.
It was really bad. I never experienced something like this. I was really scared I would collapse because I couldn’t walk any more. I think it was not fair because it’s not healthy for us. I was surprised. I thought we would not be playing today but we really don’t have much choice.
Meanwhile, the Kooyong Classic exhibition match between Maria Sharapova and Laura Siegemund, taking place in the east of Melbourne, was canceled at 5-5 in the second set, as both players complained of coughing.
Australian Open organizers said the conditions were expected to improve and would be “monitored constantly”, emphasizing that the health and safety of players, staff and fans is their priority.
This is a huge problem and I wonder how the 2020 Australian Open will unfold given these conditions. Players in Melbourne traditionally suffer from scorching heat, but now that polluted air is added to the mix, it looks like a recipe for the epidemic of collapses on tennis courts. Moreover, inhaling smoke, especially during intense physical activity, is a serious health concern which can have lasting consequences. How do you think this situation will develop? (source: BBC)