Australian Open qualifying begins, poor air quality from bushfires brings abandoned matches

At Melbourne Park, Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic was leading her first-round Australian Open qualifying match against Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele when she dropped to her knees with a coughing spell and was forced to pull out of the match. (Screenshot: ESPN Australia/NZ)
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Updated 14 January 2020

Australian Open qualifying begins, poor air quality from bushfires brings abandoned matches

  • Organizers said further decisions on match scheduling would be made
  • Melbourne started the day with hazardous air pollution levels

MELBOURNE: Smoke haze and poor air quality caused by wildfires temporarily suspended practice sessions for the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, but qualifying began later in the morning in “very poor” conditions and amid complaints by at least one player who was forced to forfeit her match.
At the Kooyong Classic exhibition in Melbourne, former No. 1-ranked Maria Sharapova struggled in the heat and smoke and her match against Laura Siegemund was called off late in the second set. Siegemund won the first set in a tiebreaker but players and officials decided to stop play at 5-5 in the second.
"Both players are feeling the smoke so we are going to stop the match at this point," the umpire said.
At Melbourne Park, Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic was leading her first-round Australian Open qualifying match against Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele when she dropped to her knees with a coughing spell. Ranked 180th, Jakupovic was a set up and one point away from a tiebreaker in the second set when she experienced breathing difficulties and retired from the match.

“I was really scared that I would collapse," Jakupovic told Australian Associated Press. "I don't have asthma and never had breathing problems. I actually like heat. The physio came again and I thought it would be better. But the points were a bit longer and I just couldn't breathe anymore and I just fell on the floor."
Jakupovic said it was "not fair" that officials asked players to take the court in those conditions.
“It's not healthy for us. I was surprised, I thought we would not be playing today but we don't have much choice."

Former Wimbledon semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard needed some medical assistance during her first qualifying match before beating You Xiaodi 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1.
Organizers said further decisions on match scheduling would be made using onsite data and in close consultation with its medical team, the Bureau of Meteorology, and scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency in Victoria state.
Melbourne started the day with hazardous air pollution as smoke from wildfires in Victoria's east and in southern New South Wales state drifted through.
The central business district, close to where Melbourne Park is located, recorded overnight hazardous levels of fine particles in the air and the EPA categorized the air quality as “very poor."
Firefighters in the region spent the night being called out to fire alarms triggered by the smoke haze.

 


Wimbledon will be canceled, believes Jamie Murray

Updated 31 March 2020

Wimbledon will be canceled, believes Jamie Murray

  • Tennis is at a standstill until June 7, with the entire European clay-court season already wiped out and the only Grand Slam event played on grass is expected to be officially canceled
  • Wimbledon organizers have ruled out playing the two-week tournament behind closed doors

LONDON: Cancelling Wimbledon is the only realistic option open to organizers as they grapple with the chaos caused by the coronavirus, says two-time Grand Slam men’s doubles champion Jamie Murray.
Tennis is at a standstill until June 7, with the entire European clay-court season already wiped out and the only Grand Slam event played on grass is expected to be officially canceled on Wednesday.
Wimbledon organizers have ruled out playing the two-week tournament, slated to run from June 29 to July 12, behind closed doors.
The French Open has already been postponed, shoehorned into the schedule in late September, and it will be difficult for Wimbledon to rearrange.
Murray, a Wimbledon men’s doubles finalist in 2015 and a two-time mixed doubles champion, said postponing the tournament presented a series of hurdles, including shorter evenings.
“I think for them, it’s difficult to move the tournament back because you’re running into other tournaments that are for the moment still on the schedule,” the 34-year-old Scotsman told the BBC on Tuesday.
“And also just things like daylight to host the event. Each week that passes, you get less and less light to play the tournament.
“Obviously they play until nine and 10 o’clock each night at Wimbledon.”
Murray, whose younger brother Andy is a two-time Wimbledon singles champion, is kicking his heels in the absence of tennis.
“I’m just at home, taking the necessary precautions, and trying to stay as active as I can,” he said.
“It’s different. We’re used to being on the road all the time, used to being in different cities every week, and you kind of become institutionalized to that.”