Fire smoke hangs over the Australian Open; questions organizers’ decisions


Smoke prevailed in the huge fires that swept the country, at the start of the preparations for the Australian Open, the first major slams scheduled for next Monday, with withdrawals in the preliminaries, medical intervention to aid a player and a suspension of exercises.

Less than a week before the start of the championship in Melbourne, the air quality has deteriorated dramatically and claimed its first victims, including the Slovenian Dalila Jakubovic, who was forced to withdraw from the qualifiers due to the violent injury of the world ranked player 180, during her match and the Swiss Stephanie Vogel.

The 28-year-old decided to withdraw after winning the first set 6-4 and falling behind in the second 5-6 because she “was really afraid of the collapse. That is why I wanted to kneel on the field because I was no longer able to walk,” according to the Slovenian woman who came off the field with someone Staff of the organizing committee and its Swiss competitor.

“This is not healthy for us. I thought we would not play today but we had little choice,” she said, referring to the controversial tournament organizers’ decision.

Jakubowicz was not the only victim on Tuesday. The Canadian medical team called Eugenie Bouchard because of chest pain caused by breathing difficulties, but was then able to finish her match and qualify for the second round of the qualifiers.

In addition to the air quality rated “dangerous” by the Melbourne authorities, which advised the city’s residents on Tuesday “to stay indoors with the doors and windows closed”, the Australian summer heat made the conditions of play very complicated.

As a precaution, the tournament organizers decided to cancel the training sessions scheduled for Tuesday in preparation for the tournament’s launch.

It was assumed that the Russian Alexander Zverev and the Belgian David Govan will take the first training session for the day on Tuesday on the stadiums “Melbourne Park”, to be followed by the world number one Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

– “What about the health of the people working here?” –

But the organizers decided to suspend these exercise sessions, as happened with the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, the American Coco Gove and the Czech Karolina Plekchova.

“The exercises were temporarily suspended this morning due to poor air quality,” the organizers said in a statement, but they kept the qualifying matches the main draw.

“Conditions on the site are improving and are being continuously monitored,” the statement added.

The organizers’ statement indicated that the upcoming decisions will be taken in consultation with a medical team and the Australian Meteorological Office, adding, “As always, the health and safety of players, staff and fans is our priority.”

But Luxembourg player Mandy Minella was not satisfied with the organizing committee’s decision, tweeting on Twitter, “I was shocked when I saw that the qualifying matches started in the Australian Open. What about the health of the people working here, especially the children who pick the balls?”

As for Ukrainian Elena Svetolina, ranked fifth in the world, she wrote on Twitter “Why do we have to wait for something dangerous to do something?”, Accompanied by a tweet with a picture of the weather data today in Melbourne.

The position of the French player, Jill Simon, was not different, and he asked with a certain irony in his accounts on social networking sites, “When we find doctors who say playing with temperatures up to 45 degrees Celsius is not dangerous in the Australian Open, and rulers say that the wet grass is not slippery in Wimbledon, it must They can find an expert certifying that the air quality is good enough, right? ”

Forest fires have killed at least 27 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes, and smoke has reached many cities, including Melbourne.

And the firefighting departments announced on Monday that they succeeded in curbing the strongest “huge fire” the country has known, which has remained for three months out of control, while rain is expected to start soon in the affected areas.

Sharapova withdrew due to “harsh conditions” –

On Tuesday, Russia’s Maria Sharapova, formerly world number one, pulled out of an exhibition match in Kooyong, a suburb of Melbourne, due to smoke from fires that struck the east of the country.

The 32-year-old asked for a time-out when she was tied in Group 5-5 (after her first loss 6-7) with German Laura Sigmund, claiming that “the players breathe in smoke.”

Sharapova, who played with an adhesive bandage to facilitate breathing, described the conditions of play as “harsh”, explaining that she had suffered “coughing attacks” at the end of the second set.

“The referee asked us to go a step further. In my view, the decision (withdrawal) was wise,” said the holder of the title of 5 major championships, which fell to the 145th position in the world due to her suffering with injuries.

Sharapova was invited by the organizers to participate in the Open Australia.

For her part, Sigmund described smoke as “penetrated my structure, this is the first time I have played in similar circumstances and I acknowledge that I felt in the second group.”

Tournament director Craig Tayley ignored the criticism because “everyone received an email,” adding that all decisions were made after consulting experts.

Tilly confirmed last week that the cancellation of the Australian Open, something that had not happened since the Second World War, was unlikely, while Serbian star Novak Djokovic, ranked second in the world, considered asking the cancellation question a legitimate matter.


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