Australian Open qualifying delayed due to bushfire smoke


Team Udayavani, Jan 15, 2020, 11:47 AM IST

Melbourne: Qualifying rounds for the Australian Open were delayed Wednesday as toxic smoke from widespread bushfires continued to choke Melbourne, throwing the Grand Slam’s schedule into chaos.

The decision to suspend the action followed heavy criticism when players were affected by hazardous conditions after play was allowed to go ahead on Tuesday.

One qualifier retired with breathing difficulties and Canadian Eugenie Bouchard needed medical attention, although all other matches were completed. Play will not begin before 1:00 pm (0200 GMT), with practice sessions also suspended.

“Conditions at Melbourne Park are being constantly monitored,” Tennis Australia said.

“Further decisions will be made using onsite data in consultation with the tournament’s medical team, the Bureau of Meteorology and scientists from the Victorian Environmental Protection Agency,” it said.

The EPA listed air quality in Melbourne, habitually ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, as “very poor” at 9:00 am but not at the “hazardous” levels registered on Tuesday.

Very poor means the air is likely smoky or dusty and that people might suffer coughing or shortness of breath.

“EPA advises people in smoke-affected areas to take care, stay indoors away from smoke where possible and limit exposure.”

Some relief may be on the way. The Bureau of Meteorology said thunderstorms and wind changes were expected for Victoria later Wednesday, which could clear the air.

The deteriorating conditions followed months of deadly bushfires that have engulfed huge swathes of the Australian countryside, leaving at least 27 people dead and more than 2,000 homes destroyed.

A fundraising exhibition match on Wednesday evening to raise money for bushfire relief efforts, featuring Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, and others, will not be affected as it will be held with the roof shut on Rod Laver Arena.

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