Australian Open 2020 in Melbourne is experiencing a real crisis as tennis players are struggling to play or breathe as smoke from the country’s bushfires has led to extremely poor air quality.
Some may argue that these are dangerous playing conditions and a potential health risk.
Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupovic had to quit her match after falling to her knees and coughing. “I have no asthma or breathing problems. I never experienced something like this. It was really scary I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t know what to do!” Jakupovic told the Australian Associated Press.
Dalila Jakupovic collapsed on court and suffered a coughing fit because of the poor quality of air in Melbourne. “The whole match was tough for me – to breathe, to get some fresh air, to get some air at all!” said Jakupovic. She withdrew from the match as she was unable to continue playing.
“It was really scary I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t know what to do!”
Dalila expressed her frustrations “I understand like none of us had these kind of conditions before. We are used to pollution, like we play in China, we play in more polluted countries. But I mean this is smoke, its something completely different then for sure we are not used to it! Citizens and everyone was advised to stay inside, so we didn’t expect that we would be playing.”
Australian tennis player Bernard Tomic lost his opening match of qualifying as he struggled with breathing problems and required medical help on court.
Former World No.1 and five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova’s match against Laura Siegemund was postponed as both players were struggling to breathe.
Practice was suspended on Wednesday and qualification for the tournament delayed as conditions pose a serious health risk to the players.
Australia is currently dealing with its worst bushfires in decades. Air quality in Melbourne detected worse than in New Delhi and Shanghai, according to the World Air Quality Index.
Earlier this week some of the top players came together in a charity exhibition event Rally For Relief raising nearly $5 million in funds to help the Australian bushfire victims.