Australia fires: Dalila Jakupovic says every player she spoke to ‘had problems breathing’

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Australian Open: ‘Scared’ Jakupovic retires from qualifier
2020 Australian Open
Venue:Melbourne ParkDates:20 January to 2 February
Coverage:Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Dalila Jakupovic, who retired from her Australian Open qualifying match because of the air quality, says every player she has spoken to had “headaches and problems breathing”.

The Slovenian, 28, had to be helped off court after suffering a coughing fit in her first-round match in Melbourne.

Wednesday’s qualifying was delayed because of the “very poor” air quality from the ongoing bushfire crisis.

“It was very dangerous to play in those conditions yesterday,” said Jakupovic.

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Maria Sharapova’s match against Laura Siegemund was called off because of the effects of smoke

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard had to leave court to receive treatment after complaining of a sore chest during Tuesday’s first round.

Australia’s Bernard Tomic also had treatment on court and Maria Sharapova of Russia’s exhibition match in Kooyong in the east of the city was called off.

Wednesday’s qualifying resumed after a three-hour delay but heavy rain meant matches were ultimately suspended for the day.

“I think all of the players yesterday suffered more than the ones playing today because not all matches are going to be finished today,” Jakupovic told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast.

“Yesterday, whoever we talk to, all the players had headaches, were feeling chest pains, had problems breathing. It was horrible.”

At least 28 people have died and an estimated 10 million hectares (100,000 sq km) of land in Australia has burned since 1 July.

People in Melbourne were advised to stay indoors on Tuesday, while spectators at Melbourne Park wore breathing masks.

Jakupovic said she did not have asthma and had not had breathing problems before.

“I actually prefer the heat when I play in these conditions, so this was something very different,” she added.

“I’ve never experienced something like this.”

Britain’s Harriet Dart, who won her first-round qualifying match later on Tuesday, described playing as “a little bit different”.

“I didn’t go outside too much until my match. I think I was quite lucky to be playing later, as the conditions definitely improved as the day went on,” she said.

Dart’s second-round opponent, American Nicole Gibbs, voiced her concerns about the air quality on Wednesday.

Analysis

BBC weather presenter Simon King

Many of the fires are under control at the moment, but they’re still burning and they are still providing a lot of smoke across Victoria and New South Wales. It has been particularly bad in Melbourne. Melbourne has been one of the worst hit for air quality in terms of the particulate matter – the index has been up to 414 and that is classed as hazardous.

We’ve also had some heavy rain and thunderstorms moving their way through Victoria, even across New South Wales. That will help the wildfires there but the rain has been really bad in Melbourne. There have been torrential conditions with some really big hail as well.

Over the next few days, the rain will help bring the smoke down to the ground and wash it away, so the air quality should improve. Temperatures should also come down.

For the start of tournament, more storms are forecast.

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