Player quits Australian Open qualifier after suffering coughing fit in thick smoke

Tanya Simon
January 14, 2020

The air quality index in Melbourne on Tuesday morning was over 200 - meaning hazardous - as smoke from bushfires raging across the country blanketed Melbourne in a thick, grey haze.

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said that when it became obvious smoke could have an impact, officials had to act for the welfare of all involved - players, fans and staff.

Much of Victoria is breathing air rated "poor", "very poor" and even "hazardous" today, due to 19 bushfires still burning across the state.

"Both players are feeling the smoke so we are going to stop the match at this point", the umpire announced.

Twenty-eight people have been killed and thousands made homeless in recent months as huge fires across the country have scorched through 11.2 million hectares (27.7 million acres), almost half the area of the United Kingdom.

Players affected by the delayed start to qualifying include Australia's former number Bernard Tomic.

Players who have arrived in Melbourne for the tournament woke to a pea-soup haze blanketing the city on Tuesday.

But the qualifying match was not without drama.

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Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told local media the air quality in Melbourne had been the "worst in the world" overnight.

However that suspension was lifted at 11am and play was allowed to recommence after receiving advice from air quality specialists.

At the Kooyong Classic, in the Melbourne suburbs, players and officials chose to stop play between Maria Sharapova and Laura Siegemund at 5-5 in the second set due to the smoke.

"After two and a half hours that was the right call for me".

"I think it was not fair because it's not healthy for us".

"This is obviously maybe more extreme than some of the other conditions we've had but other than you just have to be ready". "I felt like the conditions got worse as the match went on. but I was out there for a long time".

The umpire said the conditions were behind the call to stop play after nearly two and a half hours.

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