Story at a glance

  • The wildfires burning in Australia have consumed millions of acres and lofted enormous plumes of smoke, creating unhealthy air quality in many of the country’s major cities.
  • Smoke filled the air on Tuesday during the Australian Open’s qualifying rounds in Melbourne, with the city advising residents to stay indoors due to the hazardous air conditions.
  • Players suffered under the poor air quality and temperatures in the 90s — one doubled over in a coughing fit that forced her to leave the match unfinished.

Smoke from the wildfires in Australia created hazardous air conditions in Melbourne, delaying play on the first day of the Australian Open qualifying matches on Tuesday. One player was forced to quit a match she was winning after falling to her knees in a coughing fit, the New York Times reports

Smoke from the “apocalyptic” wildfires in Australia has affected air quality in other countries and will eventually encircle the planet, according to NASA

The City of Melbourne advised residents to “stay indoors, keep windows and doors shut, and stay inside” because of the hazardous air quality. But the famed tennis tournament continued on after an hour of delay, despite the air quality index remaining in the unhealthy range. 

Players took to the courts amid temperatures in the low 90s and a pall of smoke. 

Dalia Joakupovic of Slovenia was winning her midafternoon match against Stanie Vögele. But as Jaokupovic prepared to serve, she began gasping and then coughing so intensely she dropped to her knees. Unable to continue, she was forced to leave the match she was leading 6-4, 5-6.

Jakupovic has not had breathing issues in the past. She told the Times that she was having something “like an asthma attack” as she warmed up that day.

“I think it was not fair because it’s not healthy for us,” Jakupovic told reporters. “I was surprised. I thought we would not be playing today but we really don’t have much choice.”

Eugenie Bouchard, the 2014 Wimbledon runner-up, told medical staff she was having chest pains akin to “spikes in her lungs.” 

Bernard Tomic was given an inhaler after having trouble breathing during his match. 

Some players expressed frustration that the tournament matches went on despite the poor air quality. 

Elina Svitolina of Ukraine tweeted: “Why do we need to wait for something bad to happen to do an action,” along with a graphic of Melbourne's "very unhealthy" air from the World Air Quality Index.

Tournament organizers have said games would be moved to Melbourne Park’s three roofed stadiums and eight indoor courts in the “unlikely case of extreme smoke conditions,” Reuters reports.

Published on Jan 14, 2020