‘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.


Man Utd retain top spot after Liverpool stalemate, Spurs sparkle

Man Utd retain top spot after Liverpool stalemate, Spurs sparkle
Updated 18 January 2021

Man Utd retain top spot after Liverpool stalemate, Spurs sparkle

Man Utd retain top spot after Liverpool stalemate, Spurs sparkle
  • It is the first time these two old foes have been involved in a title race together since 2009 when United, then at their peak, held off Liverpool’s challenge

LONDON: Manchester United held onto top spot in the Premier League after grinding out a dour 0-0 draw at title rivals Liverpool, while Tanguy Ndombele’s stunning strike sealed Tottenham’s 3-1 win at Sheffield United on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had the better chances in a strangely subdued clash between two of English football’s bitterest rivals.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker saved well from Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the second half, but neither side deserved to win.

United are three points clear of third placed Liverpool and two ahead of second placed Leicester.

United are top after the New Year for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 thanks to nine wins in an 12-match unbeaten run. Leaving Anfield unscathed is a solid result for United as they chase a first title in eight years, but they might feel it was a missed opportunity to pile pressure on injury-hit Liverpool given their recent struggles.

It is the first time these two old foes have been involved in a title race together since 2009 when United, then at their peak, held off Liverpool’s challenge.

But there was little feel of a seismic encounter as both teams largely played with the handbrake on at an empty and silent Anfield.

Liverpool are well short of the dynamic form that carried them to the title last season and the Champions League in 2019.

Jurgen Klopp’s team have now gone four league games without a win and are without a goal in their last three top-flight matches.

Liverpool defender Joel Matip wasn’t fit enough to feature, so Jordan Henderson had to play as a makeshift center-back alongside fellow midfielder Fabinho.

Despite that setback, Liverpool dominated a cautious first half with over 65 percent of the possession.

They lacked a cutting edge in the final third and Roberto Firmino shot wide before Mohamed Salah volleyed over.

It took United 34 minutes to have a shot and they almost took the lead from it as Bruno Fernandes whipped his free-kick inches wide.

In an equally scrappy second half, Fernandes forced a good save from Alisson when his effort from Luke Shaw’s cross was turned away by the Brazilian’s foot.

Thiago Alcantara’s strike was well saved by David De Gea, while Alisson made another fine stop to deny Paul Pogba’s close-range shot.

At Bramall Lane, Tottenham took an early lead through a rare goal from Ivory Coast defender Serge Aurier.

Harry Kane’s 19th goal of the season — the England captain’s fourth in his last six games — increased Tottenham’s advantage before half-time.

David McGoldrick got one back for bottom of the table United in the second half, but Ndombele’s sublime lob, flicked over his shoulder from an acute angle, wrapped up the points.

The wonder-goal was the latest sign of Ndombele turning his Tottenham career around.

The 24-year-old’s fine form is a stark contrast to his struggles in his first season after arriving from Lyon, with Mourinho admitting the player had to change his mindset to get back on track.

“He is incredible. For me sometimes you can score a great goal isolated from your performance. In this case the goal confirmed his performance. It was really, really good,” Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho said.

Fourth placed Tottenham are on a seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions after winning at Bramall Lane for the first time since 1975.

Manchester City host Crystal Palace in Sunday’s late match.