Published: Wed, January 15, 2020
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Australian Open tennis: Bushfire smoke interrupts practice

Australian Open tennis: Bushfire smoke interrupts practice

"But the points were a bit longer and I just couldn't breathe anymore and I just fell on the floor".

In Melbourne, a picturesque bayside city famed as one of the most liveable in the world, the bushfire smoke raised pollution levels to "hazardous" at the start of the week.

"I had been inside from 10 o'clock for three hours and, because they had made a decision to go ahead, I thought it would have cleared up a lot. I never experienced something like this", Jakupovic said.

Her retirement came only hours after tournament director Craig Tiley defended the decision to proceed with qualifiers after they were initially delayed due to the poor air.

A tournament spokeswoman told Reuters the players had agreed to play and organizers deemed conditions safe for matches to go ahead after receiving advice from authorities.

"I was really scared that I would collapse", Jakupovic told Australian Associated Press.

"Why do we need to wait for something bad to happen to do an action", she tweeted.

Australia urged foreign tourists on Tuesday to put aside concerns about raging bushfires after the United States downgraded a travel warning, even as thick smoke disrupted preparations for the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne.

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"When you reach the hazardous air quality range anyone can develop symptoms", Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Tuesday.

"This is a new experience for all of us in how we manage air quality, so we have to listen to the experts", Tiley said.

The Australian Open officially kicks off on January 20.

Of course, the air in Melbourne is now considered "the worst in the world" as smoke from the wildfires has taken over the area.

And over at Kooyong, 7km south-east of Melbourne, former world number one Maria Sharapova was explaining to the local commentary team, that her match with Germany's Laura Siegemund was abruptly halted as both players were struggling with the effects of smoke.

Bushfire smoke disrupted the Australian Open build-up Wednesday for a second straight day, with qualifying rounds delayed following a barrage of complaints about safety from worldwide tennis players.

Bushfires in Australia are common during the hotter spring and summer months, though scientists have said Australia's fire season is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as a result of climate change.

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