Smoky conditions have continued to cause chaos in Melbourne with one player retiring after suffering a coughing fit on court and others forced into long medical timeouts.
Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire from the qualifiers at Melbourne Park due to the smoke, having used an inhaler – despite not having asthma – during the match. She won the first set 6-4 against Switzerland’s Stefanie Vogele but retired just before sending the second set into a tiebreaker.
She told reporters she was feeling the impact of the smoke during her practice session in the morning, and it only got worse during her match.
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“On the warm-up at 9 o’clock, I was having chest pain,” she said.
“On the match, after 25 minutes or so, I was getting difficulty, like an asthma attack, which I don’t have.
“So I called the physio on the court and I was getting better. After some time, the end of the second set, the physio came again, I thought I would be better.
“The points were getting bigger and I couldn’t breathe out on the court. I couldn’t stand up.”
Things got worse during the match.
“I’m angry and sad. I’m more sad because I had the win (in my grasp) and I just couldn’t finish it,” she said.
“I don’t have asthma even and I don’t have breathing problems from the heat.
“It was really bad, I never experienced something like this.
“I was really scared. I was scared that I would like collapse so that’s why I went on the floor because I couldn’t walk any more.
“I couldn’t stretch myself. It was better when I was round because I could get some air.”
Jakupovic said she thought tournament officials made a mistake by telling players to go out in the smoke.
“I think it was not fair because it’s not healthy for us,” she said.
“I was surprised. I thought we would not be playing today but we really don’t have much choice. If they don’t put us on the court, maybe we get fined – I don’t know.
“It would be maybe better to see if tomorrow is better. They still have time.”
Elsewhere Canadian Eugenie Bouchard had to take an extended medical timeout to deal with the conditions, and her opponent Xiandi You was also suffering with tennis writer Simon Briggs reporting “she can only serve underarm now”.
Meanwhile in Kooyong, Maria Sharapova and Laura Siegemund agreed to end their exhibition match early due to the conditions, with Sharapova reportedly saying she could feel a cough coming on.
Another top player, Elina Svitolina, tweeted out an app showing the Melbourne air was considered “very unhealthy” at 2PM on Tuesday, asking “why do we need to wait for something bad to happen to do an action?”
Jakupovic’s retirement comes on the back of the Australian Open earlier defending their decision to proceed with the qualifiers, despite Melbourne’s air pollution reaching hazardous levels.
Tournament director Craig Tiley told reporters on Tuesday that, after pushing back the starting time of the qualifiers by an hour, the air quality had been deemed safe enough for play.
“Today when we got up the smoke haze was significant so we made the decision to suspend practice and, as a result, to start the qualifying matches an hour later than was originally scheduled,” Tiley said.
“During the period of when we suspended practice and restarted the matches there was an improvement in the conditions.”