Smoke from Australian bushfires forces tennis player to retire from Melbourne match

Tanya Simon
January 15, 2020

Australian Open men's champion Novak Djokovic expressed concern earlier this month that bushfire smoke might cause some health problems for players.

Cool weather over recent days had already given some respite for exhausted firefighters spread out across vast swathes of the country, allowing some of the biggest blazes to be brought under control.

There were also hopes that the forecast rain would help contain or even extinguish some of the dozens of fires still raging out of control and threatening to devastate many more rural towns.

The start of Australian Open qualifying has been disrupted by the effects of smoke from regional bushfires, with several players complaining about the conditions. On Tuesday, the air quality in parts of Melbourne reached hazardous levels, and people were urged to stay indoors.

Hazardous air quality across Melbourne has wreaked havoc at the first day of the Australian Open qualifying matches and the Kooyong Classic yesterday.

Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire while leading in her qualifying match on Tuesday because of the smoke.

Jakupovic agreed, saying, "It's not healthy for us".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the USA move to scale back its travel warning and said Australia was "very much open for business", amid concerns the fires would damage the tourism industry and the broader economy.

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"We have experts who analyse all available live data as specific to our sites as possible and consult regularly with tournament officials and, in the case of heat and smoke, medical experts".

Her tweet included a photo of the AQI (air quality index) at 200 Tuesday afternoon local time, well above the 0 to 50 standards for a good AQI and considered very unhealthy.

Organisers have said there is little chance of it being delayed.

At least 28 people have died and an estimated 10 million hectares (100,000 sq km) of land in Australia has burned since 1 July.

Australia experienced its driest and hottest year on record in 2019, with its highest average maximum temperature of 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.4 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded in mid-December.

The fires have dominated headlines around the world and led to an global outpouring of aid for victims, as well as animals that have been injured in the blazes.

Environmental groups estimate one billion animals have been killed, many of them unique to Australia.

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