Atlanta [USA], Jan 15 : After being forced to retire from her Australian Open qualifying match, Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic slammed the organisers of the tournament, saying the tennis players expected them to take better care.
Jakupovic had collapsed with a coughing fit caused by the bushfire smoke and was forced to retire midway into her game.
She was leading 6-4, 5-6 against Switzerland’s Stefanie Vogele but she had to retire after being unable to continue further.
“We are a bit disappointed because we thought they would take better care of us. Also, my opponent after the match said she also had trouble. Not as bad as me, but she said she could not breathe normally because of the air,” CNN quoted Jakupovic as saying.
“It is not the way you want to compete like this to have these problems … It’s not the ideal situation. We were talking about it but organisers said that they checked and that the air was fine,” she said.
“Obviously this is not pollution, it is smoke and so it is a bit different from what we are used to. We play in China, we play in other countries and cities that are polluted. But this is smoke, it’s something that none of us have experienced before,” Jakupovic further said.
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina had also tweeted about the alarming air quality levels in Australia and said: “Why do we need to wait for something bad to happen to do an action #Melbourne”.
The players who have already qualified for the Australian Open had suspended their practice on Tuesday as smoke from the fires affected the state of Victoria.
The air quality in Melbourne was rated “moderate to hazardous” because of the smoke, according to Victoria’s Environmental Protection Authority and recommended people to stay indoors.
At least 28 people have died as a result of bushfire and more than 3,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged in the state of New South Wales.
It was announced earlier that the top tennis stars like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams will be playing an exhibition match to raise funds for Australia’s bushfire relief. Apart from these three, Naomi Osaka, Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas have also confirmed their availability for the match.
The game will be played on January 15 at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena. The Australian Open Rally for Relief will be donating the proceedings from the ticket sales to the bushfire relief efforts.
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