Organisers of the Australian Open have come under fire after opting to start the first day of the Australian Open qualifying despite air quality readings in the city being measured as ‘hazardous.’
Melbourne Park, which is the venue of the grand slam tournament, was surrounded by a haze on Tuesday as a result of the bushfires wrecking havoc across Australia. According to the National Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the air quality has been rated as ‘very poor’ since 5am local time. Prior to that, it had a rating of hazardous.
As a result of the conditions, there was a 90-minute delay to the start of the qualifying tournament. However, when the play got underway, some players still struggled in the conditions. The biggest victim was world No.180 Dalila Jakupovic, who was forced to retire from her match after having a coughing fit that forced her to drop to the ground. The Slovenian had a 6-4, 5-6, lead over 11th seed Stefanie Vögele before the match was halted.
“I was really scared that I would collapse. That’s why I went onto the floor because I couldn’t walk anymore,” Jakupovic told The Western Australian.
“I don’t have asthma and never had breathing problems. I actually like heat.
“The physio came again and I thought it would be better. But the points were a bit longer and I just couldn’t breathe anymore and I just fell on the floor.”
Awful scenes in Melbourne.
— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) January 14, 2020
The former top 70 player has hit out at organisers for allowing matches to take place in the haze. Last week the Australian Open confirmed they have contingency plans in place should the air quality get dangerous. Their plans include moving matches indoors. Tennis Australian CEO Craig Tiley has stated that the health of players and fans is his ‘priority at all times.’
“It’s not healthy for us. I was surprised, I thought we would not be playing today but we don’t have much choice.”Jakupovic stated.
Morning of first round of qualies here in Melbourne and not even a single email has been received about air quality. Maybe an over reaction but the lack of information on how to proceed is scary. pic.twitter.com/00M8jV59gc
— Noah Rubin (@Noahrubin33) January 13, 2020
Another to struggle in qualifying was Bernard Tomic, who crashed out 7-6(4), 6-3, to Denis Kudla. During the match, the Australian took a medical time out after complaining of breathing difficulties during the early stages of the second set.
“No air is going in. I’m getting tired so easy,” Tomic was heard telling medical staff.
“Is anyone else complaining today?”
“No, it’s been okay,” said the medic.
Eugenie Bouchard has insisted that there needs to be an ‘air quality rule’ implemented to protect the health of players on the tour. The former Wimbledon finalist received multiple timeouts during her match against China’s You Xiaodi, which lasted almost three hours. The Canadian prevailed 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-1.
“I felt like it was tough to breathe and a bit nauseous,” Bouchard said. “I felt like the conditions got worse as the match went on…but I was out there for a long time. As an athlete we want to be very careful, our physical health is one of the most important things. It’s not ideal to play in these conditions. Just like the heat rule, there should be an air quality rule.”
At the same time matches were played at the grand slam venue, Maria Sharapova’s clash with Laura Siegemung at the Kooyong Classic was stopped after she said she felt a cough coming on. Her opponent also struggled with the conditions. The venue of where Sharapova played her match is less than 8km away from Melbourne Park.
“I started feeling a cough coming toward the end of the second set but I’ve been sick for a few weeks so I thought that had something to do with it,” Sharapova told SBS after the match.
“But then I heard Laura speak to the umpire and she said she was struggling with it as well.
“We were out there for over two hours so from a health stand point it’s the right call from officials.”
Elina Svitolina, who will be a top five seed in the women’s draw at the Australian Open, is another player to hit out at officials. Voicing her concerns in a social media post.
Amidst the outcry from many on the tour, tournament director Tiley has insisted that enough is being done to protect the welfare of players. Telling reporters that Tennis Australia is looking at conditions on a ‘day-by-day basis.’
“We will just take it a day at a time. We have mitigating circumstances that we have put into place to protect the health and wellbeing of players. We will make any decision that we need to make relative to that.” He said.
There appears to be no let up in the current conditions. According to the EPA, the air quality will range between ‘very poor and hazardous’ on Wednesday.
Breakdown of EPA’s air quality classifications
- Good – It’s a good day to be outside.
- Moderate – The air quality is okay, but it could change soon. It’s okay to be outside but watch for changes in air quality around you.
- Poor – The air is probably dusty or smoky. Sensitive groups may experience symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath.
- Very poor – The air is probably very dusty or smoky. Everyone could be experiencing symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath.
- Hazardous – The air is probably extremely dusty or smoky. Everyone could be experiencing symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath.
Karolina Pliskova And Belinda Bencic Join Mass Exodus Of Seeds At Australian Open
The list of upsets in the women’s draw at the Australian Open grew ever longer as Karolina Pliskova and Belinda Bencic lost.
It was all going so well for the seeded players in the Women’s Singles at the 2020 Australian Open. 21 of them made it through to the last 32. And, for the first time since 2007, that contingent included all of the top ten.
Then the third round began on day five and all hell broke loose. First, 8th seed Serena Williams lost to Wang Qiang. Then 10th seed Madison Keys was defeated by Maria Sakkari. And, as if that was not already enough for one day, 3rd seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka was knocked out by Coco Gauff.
It is now day six, and 2nd seed Karolina Pliskova and 6th seed Belinda Bencic have joined the list of high-profile casualties in round three due to losses to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Anett Kontaveit respectively.
The Czech, 27, competed very strongly with her Russian opponent throughout. She matched her in almost every department, and both sets of the match went to a tie-break.
However, Pavlyuchenkova outgunned Pliskova in both tie-breaks with some impressive ball-striking as she hit a series of winners to earn a 7-6(4) 7-6(3) victory over the 2nd seed.
Bencic has a day to forget
Bencic experienced something of a waking nightmare. She made ten unforced errors and won just ten points as she lost the first set 6-0 to Kontaveit in just 21 minutes.
The second set started in a similar fashion. The Swiss lost the first three games and faced the embarrassing prospect of joining the list of players who have suffered a 6-0 6-0 loss in a Grand Slam if she did not get her act together.
Then Bencic finally won a game to make it 3-1. After that, she competed much better with the Estonian for the remainder of the match. But of course, by then it was much too late. Kontaveit completed a dominant 6-0 6-1 win in 49 minutes.
Donna Vekic was due to meet the Swiss in the fourth round if both players made it that far. Ultimately, neither did, as the Croatian also sustained a surprising loss when she went down 7-5 6-3 to 18-year-old rising star Iga Swiatek.
The defeats of Pliskova and Bencic mean that five of the top ten have now departed from the draw at the last-32 stage. 5th seed Elina Svitolina and 9th seed Kiki Bertens play this evening. Will they survive or will they join the ever-growing list of top players that have suffered unexpected exits?
Caroline Wozniacki Bids Emotional Farewell To Tennis After Defeat to Jabeur
Caroline Wozniacki gave her last on-court interview and said goodbye to the fans after she lost the last match of her career.
Caroline Wozniacki brought the curtain down on her exceptional tennis career with a tearful farewell on Margaret Court Arena.
Appropriately, the Dane’s last professional match was the kind of pulsating three-set battle she is famous for. Ultimately, she lost it 7-5 3-6 7-5 to Ons Jabeur, but the occasion was about so much more than that.
It was a time for Wozniacki to look back at what she achieved and celebrate her triumphs. And, although she was clearly emotional that it was all over, there was no regret in her voice.
“I think it’s only fitting that my last match would be a three-setter, a grinder, and that I would finish my career with a forehand error,” the Dane said in her on-court interview.
“Those are the things that I’ve been working on my whole career, and I guess this was just meant to be.”
Wozniacki continued, “There’s so many things I will remember. Obviously the achievements I had on the court were amazing. The feelings that the fans give us players when we’re out here are really amazing.”
“I will remember the support I’ve had from my family – especially my dad who has coached me all these years.”
“Those are the special memories that I will always cherish. The journey we’ve been on together has been really amazing. It’s been a great ride. I really am happy, but I’m ready for the next chapter (in my life) and I’m excited for what’s to come. You may see me around – off the court.”
Players pay tribute to Wozniacki
During a special tribute, some of the players Wozniacki competed against gave their thoughts on the Dane. Several mentioned that she was a great fighter, while others praised her positive attitude.
Meanwhile, Sloane Stephens summed up many an opponent’s feelings when facing Wozniacki. “Most annoyingly, she just got every ball back – literally every ball,” the American said. “And she had that backhand which was just not fun (to face).”
“I have a lot of really nice memories of her of just being a really genuinely nice person,” added Naomi Osaka.
The last words were left for one of the Dane’s best friends: Serena Williams. “It’s going to be really hard for me to not have Caroline on the tour,” she said. “I’m really happy for her and I know that she’s doing what she wants to do and that’s what it’s all about.”
Wozniacki was then asked how she fought so hard on court but made so many friends on tour.
“When you’re on the court, you’re there to compete and there to win,” the Dane responded. “But when we’re off the court, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all travelling to the same tournaments and I think it makes it a lot more fun if you have friends on tour.”
After her final on-court interview, all that remained was for Wozniacki to say goodbye. Tournament director Craig Tiley gave her a hug and presented her with a koala. Then her dad Piotr lifted her up and carried her across the court.
Finally, the Dane walked around the stadium thanking the fans for their love and support with happy tears in her eyes. She will be remembered very fondly by the tennis community.
Serena Williams Crashes Out Of The Australian Open With Shock Loss To Wang
Serena Williams suffered a shock third-round exit at the 2020 Australian Open. She lost a tight three-set match to Wang Qiang.
Serena Williams unexpectedly tumbled out of the 2020 Australian Open at the third-round stage with a 6-4 6-7(2) 7-5 defeat to Wang Qiang.
It is a massively upsetting results for the American. And it means that her quest for a Margaret Court-equalling 24th Grand Slam title will have to continue if she wants it to be successful.
For Wang, this day means something entirely. It is undoubtedly the biggest win of her career so far and should give her great confidence for her first-ever Grand Slam last-16 match in two days’ time.
It also marked an extraordinary transformation from the Chinese player. At the US Open in September, she was humiliated by the great American. She lost 6-1 6-0 in 44 minutes and did not hit a single winner.
Today in Melbourne, she took the game to Serena and hit 25 of them. In addition, she made sure she held onto her serve as much as possible (she was only broken once) and she made the American play as many balls as she could.
Wang punishes Serena’s mistakes
The 23-time Grand Slam champion did not perform at her best. She made more unforced errors (56) than winners (43), which is usually a bad sign. And she only got 56% of her first serves, which enabled Wang to attack her second serve.
To the 27th seed’s immense credit, she capitalised on Serena’s mistakes. She remained so consistent and made so few unforced errors in the match (just 20 in 160 minutes of play) that she reduced the margin for error for her opponent significantly.
This meant that when the American faltered, Wang could pounce. She was gifted 0-30 in the ninth game of the first set and hit two winners to seize the crucial break.
Then Serena made some sloppy errors in the fifth game of the second set and the Chinese player broke her again. Unfortunately for the 27th seed, the World No.9 played arguably her best tennis of the match to break back four games later and then eventually take the set 7-2 in the tie-break.
In the decider, Wang served brilliantly. She got 74% of her first serves in and won 84% of those points. Consequently, she did not face a single break point in the set.
By contrast, Serena had to save two break points to keep the match going all the way to 6-5 in the Chinese player’s favour.
However, that was the limit of the American’s resistance. She made five unforced errors to gift Wang the game and with it the win that she had worked so hard for.
The Chinese player will now take on another surprise winner – Ons Jabeur – in the fourth round. The Tunisian became the last player to beat Caroline Wozniacki in her career when she recorded a 7-5 3-6 7-5 win.
Barty eases into Last 16
While the former World No.1 was knocked out, the current occupier of that ranking – Ashleigh Barty – suffered no such strife. She continued her serene progress through the draw with a comfortable 6-3 6-2 victory over rising star Elena Rybakina.
The Australian, 23, has now lost just twelve games in her last six sets after she dropped the first set against Lesia Tsurenko in round one.
It is ominous form, but if Barty’s rivals are starting to worry, they may take some comfort from the fact that the World No.1 might have to play the woman who beat her at Wimbledon – Alison Riske – in the next round.
Furthermore, if the Australian makes it to the quarter-final, she will probably face a very tough task in the shape of Petra Kvitova.
The Czech, 29, has made this Grand Slam business look very easy so far at this year’s Australian Open. She followed up straight-set victories over Katerina Siniakova and Paula Badosa with a 6-1 6-2 thrashing of Ekaterina Alexandrova to book her place in the fourth round.
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