By News Desk
Fears of disruption to this year’s Australian Open from bushfire smoke have receded but some players were clearly concerned about the conditions their colleagues were forced to play earlier in the week.
State of weather on Saturday was in stark contrast to earlier rounds of the qualifying tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday when players complained of breathing problems and Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire after a coughing fit.
Victoria’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) rated the air quality in central Melbourne as “good” on Saturday morning and “moderate” in the afternoon, and the final round of qualifying was completed on schedule.
Canada’s Denis Shapovalov said he would flat out refuse to go on court if forced to compete in poor air quality and believed other leading players at the tournament will similarly decline to risk their health.
“I don’t want to risk my life, risk my health being out there playing in this condition when I can (play) for the next 10-15 years,” the 13th seed told reporters. I think everyone’s kind of on the same page in terms of how it is. I don’t think anyone’s happy with the way things are being dealt with.”
More than 100 bushfires were still burning in eastern Australia on Saturday despite storms now lashing many of the areas destroyed by the conflagrations that have killed 29 people and millions of animals since September.
Roger Federer, the 20-times Grand Slam champion who sits on the players’ council, said the main problem earlier in the week had been a lack of communication between organizers and players.
“I went to them the first day when it was bad on Tuesday, the next day on Wednesday when it was still bad. I said, ‘I think we’re all confused. Is it super unsafe or is it totally safe to play? … Everybody is told to be inside, and we’re having court calls. How far are we from that threshold of playing, not playing?’”