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.

 


Kevin De Bruyne thanks Manchester City supporters in the Middle East ahead of club’s Premier League kick off

Updated 20 September 2020

Kevin De Bruyne thanks Manchester City supporters in the Middle East ahead of club’s Premier League kick off

  • A new documentary, Made in Belgium, goes behind the scenes with the PFA Player of the Year
  • The 29-year-old has now played a pivotal role in seven major trophies, including those two Premier League titles

DUBAI: From Manchester to Abu Dhabi, few would dispute that Kevin De Bruyne is currently the best midfielder in the English Premier League, if not world football.

And Manchester City prepare to kick off their 2020-21 season with a trip to Wolves on Monday night, the PFA Player of the Year has sent out a message of appreciation for his fans in the Middle East, who will now have a chance to see him up more close and personal than ever before.

The Belgian maestro came following the release of Made in Belgium, a documentary on the player showing on City+, the Club’s content subscription service which is available in the UAE.

“Much of my talking is done on the pitch but it’s nice to reward the City fans with a little insight into who I am away from it and allow them to get to know me a little better,” he said. “I want to thank all the fans in the region for their support over the past few years and we are all looking forward to returning to Abu Dhabi to train with the Club when it is safe to do so.”

Made in Belgium tells the story of De Bruyne’s wonderful career so far as he has developed into one of the world’s best midfielders, and features exclusive interviews with some of those who know him best, including Pep Guardiola and Vincent Kompany, as well as Eden Hazard and Roberto Martinez, his team-mate and manager at international level.

De Bruyne started his senior career in 2008 at Genk in his homeland, De Bruyne joined Chelsea for $9.043 million in 2012 but was put out on loan to Werder Bremen in Germany’s Bundesliga during the 2012-13 season.

His fine form there did not translate into first team action when he returned to Chelsea, and he returned to Germany when Wolfsburg paid $23.253 million in the 2014 January transfer window.

But it’s since signing for Manchester City from Wolfsburg in 2015, that De Bruyne’s career has really taken off, his passing and all-around game making him one of the world’s most devastating players. 

The 29-year-old has now played a pivotal role in seven major trophies, including those two Premier League titles.

 

 

A new documentary, Made in Belgium, goes behind the scenes with the PFA Player of the Year

On Monday, De Bruyne is expected to once again lead Manchester City in their quest to wrestle the Premier League title back from Liverpool.

Having won the title with a record-breaking 100 points in 2017-18, and then an equally-remarkable 98 points the following campaign, last season was major disappointment for the Abu Dhabi-owned club, but many people have already made them favorites to win a third title in four years under Guardiola and what would be a fifth in 10 years.

De Bruyne has also played a pivotal role in making Belgium’s national team one of the most exciting on the planet, and they currently sit at the top of FIFA’s world rankings.

At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, De Bruyne scored a stunning - and what turned out to be decisive - goal in Belgium’s 2-1 quarter-final win over Brazil. Sadly for De Bruyne, Belgium lost in the semi-finals to eventual winners France, but Martinez’s team will once again be among favorites when the rescheduled Euro 2020 kicks off next June.

Whether discussing his career with country or club, Made in Belgium gives supporters the rare chance to see the often laconic star in a completely new light with exclusive behind-the-scenes content and interviews.