An Aussie Open Cloaked in Smoke: 'I Couldn't Walk Anymore'

One player quit her match, 2 called medical timeouts, Sharapova's match called off amid fires
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2020 6:17 AM CST

The Victorian government's advice as Australia's bushfires rage on is to "minimize the time spent in smoky conditions" and "avoid exercise"—both tough to do if you're competing outdoors in the Australian Open. But that's what players were forced to contend with Monday during the tennis tourney at Melbourne Park, and several of them struggled to make it through their matches in Melbourne enveloped in the hazy air. Per ABC Australia, Slovenia's Dalila Jakupovic had to quit her qualifier after smoke sent her to her knees in a coughing fit. "I was really scared that I would collapse," she said at a presser afterward, adding she's never had breathing issues. "That's why I went onto the floor because I couldn't walk anymore." Aussie player Bernard Tomic had to call a medical timeout and use an inhaler, and an exhibition match with Russia's Maria Sharapova was called off.

Posts on Twitter showed what the air looked like outside Melbourne Park. Jakupovic said it was "not fair" the matches were held. "It's not healthy for us," she noted, per ABC. "I was surprised, I thought we would not be playing today." Former Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard of Canada, who had to call a few medical timeouts during her match, agreed. "Just like the heat rule, there should be an air quality rule," she said, per the Guardian. Practice before the tournament had been suspended, and the first round delayed by an hour, but officials eventually deemed things OK enough to carry on with the matches. "During the period in which we suspended practice there was an improvement in conditions," Craig Tiley, head of Tennis Australia says. The Guardian notes that decision was made via advice from medical staff and based on readings from on-site air devices that measured air quality. (More Australian Open stories.)

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