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Anger grows over smoke haze play at Australian Open

Liam Broady

Liam Broady (Getty Images)

Melbourne – Britain’s Liam Broady on Thursday lashed out at Australian Open
officials for insisting qualifying take place this week despite toxic
smoke from bushfires, telling fellow players:“We can’t let this go.”

Air
quality in Melbourne was among the worst on the planet on Tuesday and
described as “hazardous” by city authorities following months of blazes
that have devastated huge swathes of the country.

It was
recommended that people and their pets stay indoors, but qualifying for
the opening Grand Slam of the year went ahead regardless.

Slovenian
Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire while leading in her match after a
distressing coughing fit, saying she was “really scared that I would
collapse”.

Other qualifiers also suffered, with world No 234
Broady taking to Twitter to claim “multiple” players needed asthma
medication, despite never having suffered from the ailment before.

“The more I think about the conditions we played in a few days ago the more it boils my blood,” Broady wrote.

He
called an email from governing body the ATP and the Australian Open
defending the decision to go ahead with qualifying matches “a slap in
the face.”

“We can’t let this slide. The email we received
yesterday … was a slap in the face, conditions were ‘playable’. Were
they ‘healthy’?”
he said.

“Citizens of Melbourne were warned to
keep their animals indoors the day I played qualifying, and yet we were
expected to go outside for high intensity physical competition?

“What do we have to do to create a players union? Where is the protection for players, both male and female?”

German
player Dustin Brown, knocked out by top seed Dennis Novak in qualifying
on Wednesday when conditions were better but still poor, appeared to
agree with Broady in a social media reply to him.

“In 35 Years, Its The 1st Time I Had 2 Use An Asthma Spray 2 Help Me Breathe Better,” he wrote.

And
Canadian former world No 25 Vasek Pospisil, who has slid down the
rankings after back surgery last year, also got on board, tweeting: “We
won’t let it go.”

Mandy Minella, the world No 140 from Luxembourg, has previously said she was “shocked” that qualifying took place.

Tennis
Australia chief Craig Tiley said this week decisions on whether to play
were made after consultations with their medical team, the Bureau of
Meteorology and Environment Protection Authority Victoria scientists.

“This
is a new experience for all of us in how we manage air quality, so we
have to listen to the experts,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The
top stars of the game haven’t been affected, completing their practice
sessions on Rod Laver Arena with the roof closed. None of them have
commented on qualifying being allowed to go ahead.

“On tour we let
so many things go that aren’t right, but at some point we have to make a
stand,” said Broady. “All players need protection, not just a select
few.”

Rain on Wednesday evening brought some relief from smoke-haze on Thursday, with qualifying going ahead without incident.

„I Have A Virus Coming On“ I Was Told By The Doctor On Court… In 35 Years, Its The 1st Time I Had 2 Use An Asthma Spray 2 Help Me Breathe Better… #WellSaidLiam???????? https://t.co/AUHUcN3jwV

— Dustin Brown (@DreddyTennis) January 15, 2020

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