‘Hazardous’ air pollution halts Australian Open practice

‘Hazardous’ air pollution halts Australian Open practice
Above, the Melbourne skyline is shrouded by haze from bushfires during an Australian Open practice session at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. (AAP Image via Reuters)
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Updated 14 January 2020

‘Hazardous’ air pollution halts Australian Open practice

‘Hazardous’ air pollution halts Australian Open practice
  • Players and one prominent coach voiced concern after the sudden deterioration in conditions
  • A small number of sports events have fallen victim to thick smoke since the fires first ignited

MELBOURNE: Soaring pollution halted Australian Open practice and delayed qualifying on Tuesday as smoke from raging bushfires hit the build-up to the season’s opening Grand Slam.
Slovenian qualifier Dalila Jakupovic retired with breathing difficulties, but it was not immediately clear whether her problems were related to the smoggy air.
Players and one prominent coach voiced concern after the sudden deterioration in conditions, following months of deadly bushfires that have engulfed huge swathes of the Australian countryside.
Air quality in Melbourne, habitually ranked as one of the world’s most livable cities, was among the worst on the planet and described as “hazardous” by city authorities.
Residents “should try to stay indoors, keep windows and doors shut, and keep pets inside,” the City of Melbourne tweeted.

Tennis officials have said there is little chance of the Australian Open being delayed, but that air quality is being monitored and umpires can halt matches to protect players’ health.
“Practice was temporarily suspended this morning due to poor air quality,” organizers said in a statement. “Conditions onsite are improving and are being constantly monitored.”
Alexander Zverev and David Goffin had been due on the Melbourne Park courts first, followed by world number one Rafael Nadal, who was seen arriving at the venue.
“Not the best air quality this morning in #Melbourne,” tweeted Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach, with a photo of the city shrouded in smog.

The first day of qualifying got underway, slightly later than expected, but there were concerns when Jakupovic, the world number 201, suffered severe coughing and retired when a set up against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele.
Elsewhere in Melbourne, Maria Sharapova took to the court as scheduled against Germany’s Laura Siegemund at the Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament.
She is set to be followed by Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov facing Croat Borna Coric.
“The health and safety of the players, spectators and all involved in the Kooyong Classic event is paramount,” said tournament director Peter Johnston.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said there was widespread smoke across central and eastern Victoria state, including Melbourne, which was expected to clear by Wednesday afternoon.
Mandy Minella, the world number 140 from Luxembourg, said she was “shocked” that Australian Open qualifying was allowed to take place.
“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?” she tweeted.

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.”

Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley rejected the criticism, telling reporters “everyone was sent an email.”
“It’s unfortunate he missed that announcement for a variety of reasons,” he said, adding that all decisions were made on expert advice.
Tiley last week said it was unlikely that the Grand Slam would be delayed, regardless of the conditions after world number two Novak Djokovic suggested the option should be on the table.
Tiley noted that Melbourne Park has three roofed stadiums and eight other indoor courts, while meteorological and air-quality experts will be on site to monitor conditions.
Any smoke hazards will be treated in a similar way to extreme heat and rain, with umpires able to stop play if it is considered too dangerous to continue.
A small number of sports events have fallen victim to thick smoke since the fires first ignited, including last month’s SOLAS Big Boat Challenge in Sydney and a Big Bash cricket match in Canberra.
But dozens of other sports fixtures have gone ahead.
Sports stars, including leading tennis players, have been quick to respond to the crisis, pledging money to relief efforts.
Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Nadal are set to headline fundraising exhibition at Melbourne Park on Wednesday.


Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup

Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup
Arsenal’s midfielder Thomas Partey vies with Southampton’s midfielders Stuart Armstrong and James Ward-Prowse during Saturday’s match. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup

Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup
  • Arsenal found their feet in the second half and Fraser Forster was forced to make a sharp save with his feet to keep out Eddie Nketiah’s deflected shot after a pass from Nicolas Pepe

SOUTHAMPTON: Southampton dumped FA Cup holders Arsenal out of the competition on Saturday, winning 1-0 courtesy of a Gabriel own goal to set up a fifth-round meeting with Wolves.
The much-changed Gunners, who have won the competition a record 14 times, fell behind midway through the first half and could not find a way back.
Ralph Hasenhuttl fielded a strong side at St. Mary’s, with Danny Ings returning after a hamstring injury and a positive coronavirus test alongside former Arsenal forward Theo Walcott.
Mikel Arteta made seven changes from their 3-0 Premier League win against Newcastle on Monday.
Southampton, who had never previously beaten Arsenal in the FA Cup, were the brighter team in the first half in the winter sunshine on England’s south coast.
James Ward-Prowse rattled the crossbar from a swerving corner and Che Adams forced a fine save from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
Southampton got the reward their positive approach deserved in the 24th minute.
Mohamed Elneny gave away possession on the edge of his own box and the ball was worked to Kyle Walker-Peters on the right side of the Southampton attack.
The defender drilled it across the six-yard area and it was inadvertently turned in by Gabriel — the first time rejuvenated Arsenal had conceded since December 26 against Chelsea.
Ward-Prowse then struck a shot from distance that sailed wide and Ings hit a fierce volley that was blocked by Hector Bellerin.
Arsenal found their feet in the second half and Fraser Forster was forced to make a sharp save with his feet to keep out Eddie Nketiah’s deflected shot after a pass from Nicolas Pepe.
Arteta threw on forward Alexandre Lacazette to bolster his attack as Arsenal pinned Southampton back.
Lacazette was inches away from getting on the end of a teasing cross by fellow substitute Bukayo Saka as the minutes ticked away but Arsenal could not find an equalizer.
The exit will be a bitter disappointment for Arsenal, who have won the FA Cup four times in the past seven seasons — in sharp contrast to their toils in the Premier League.
Arteta’s side will return to Southampton for a league meeting on Tuesday, aiming to continue their fine recent run that has lifted them to 10th in the table.