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Players Suffer Coughing Fits And Breathing Difficulties During Australian Open Qualifying

Serious concerns have been raised by players over the current conditions at the Melbourne grand slam.

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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.”

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.

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.

https://twitter.com/ElinaSvitolina/status/1216944323004190720

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.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Olympic Gold Medalists Face Differing Challenges

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Belinda Bencic on Monday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Six months ago in Tokyo, Sascha Zverev and Belinda Bencic earned the biggest achievements of their young careers: winning an Olympic Gold Medal for their country.  Now they have their sights set on claiming their first Major, though neither has a straightforward second round draw.

 

Wednesday’s schedule also includes top names like Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, and Daniil Medvedev.  However, with all of those stars being strong favorites on Day 3, other matches featuring some of the sport’s most exciting performers may be the day’s most compelling affairs.

Each day this preview will highlight the five most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.   Wednesday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.


Victoria Azarenka (24) vs. Jil Teichmann – 11:00am on Kia Arena

It was 10 full years ago when Azarenka won her first Major in Australia, a feat she would repeat just 12 months later.  Despite reaching three finals in New York, she’s still trying to secure her third Slam title.  Injuries sidelined her several times throughout 2021, yet she still put together a strong 28-9 record on the year.  Teichmann had a breakout 2021, reaching semifinals in both Adelaide and Duabi to start the year, and upsetting three top 12 players during a run to the final in Cincinnati.  But she may be overmatched against an in-form two-time former champion, who dropped only four games in the first round.


Belinda Bencic (22) vs. Amanda Anisimova – Third on Kia Arena

Anisimova was very close to being eliminated from this tournament in the first round.  The 20-year-old American was down a set and a break to Arianne Hartono, and a point from going down a double break in the second set, before storming back to win in three.  However, that near-defeat is not revealing of her recent form, as she started the season by winning a title on these very grounds.  Anisimova has been working with Darren Cahill on a trial basis in Australia, which has already paid dividends.  Bencic has continued to play well following her Tokyo triumph, where she won medals in both singles and doubles.  Three years ago on grass in Mallorca, Belinda defeated Amanda 6-2, 6-2.  Coming off such a close call on Monday, I suspect Anisimova will play freely on Wednesday, and I would not be surprised if she upset the Olympic Gold Medalist.  When her groundstrokes are on, especially her backhand, there aren’t many players who can tame Anismova’s aggression.


Carlos Alcaraz (31) vs. Dusan Lajovic – Third on 1573 Arena

Coming off his star-making run in New York, Alcaraz went right back to work in the opening round here, easily prevailing in less than two hours.  Lajovic required nearly twice as long to overcome Marton Fucsovics in five.  The 31-year-old Serbian advanced to the second week of this event a year ago.  However, the rest of his 2021 season didn’t go as well, ending the year with a record of 18-28.  And he started 2022 by going 0-3 at the ATP Cup.  I expect to see some extra fight out of Dusan during this tournament, as I anticipate many of the Serbian players will be motivated by what occurred over the past two weeks with Novak Djokovic.  But taking out one of the sport’s most formidable newcomers, especially when you’re coming off a five-setter, is a tall task.


Sascha Zverev (3) vs. John Millman – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Following his first round victory, Zverev admitted things had not gone to plan, and he had not played his best.  Despite that, Sascha still prevailed in straight sets, escaping two tight sets via tiebreaks.  He may not be able to afford such dips in his level against one of Australia’s grittiest competitors.  Millman will certainly enjoy plenty of crowd support, and he has taken out big names at Majors before.  At the 2018 US Open, he upended Roger Federer in extremely hot and humid conditions.  And at the 2019 French Open, though he lost, Millman pushed Zverev to five sets.  However, I fully expect Sascha to up his game on Wednesday.  The German won 41 hard court matches last year, and claimed five titles, including the ATP Finals.  He seems primed to make his second Slam final sooner than later, perhaps even at the end of next week.


Gael Monfils (17) vs. Alexander Bublik – Last on Margaret Court Arena

Well this match is pretty much guaranteed to be entertaining, featuring two players who often choose the more fun shot over the smarter shot.   Monfils struggled to find any form following the pandemic shutdown, as playing in front of empty seats did not inspire him.  But with fans back in the stands, Gael’s results have improved.  He started the year by winning his first title in two years.  By contrast, Bublik played well in the first half of 2021, propelling him to a career-high ranking some September, yet his results fizzled later in the year.  During 2020’s autumn edition of Roland Garros, Bubik defeated Monfils in four sets.  But with his mojo back, the Frenchman is the favorite to avenge that loss on Wednesday.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Lucia Bronzetti (Q) – On Monday, Barty needed less than an hour to dismiss Lesia Tsurenko 6-0, 6-1.  Bronzetti is a 23-year-old Italian who reached five lower-level finals last season.

Rafael Nadal (6) vs. Yannick Hanfmann (Q) – Nadal was another straight-set victor in the first round.  Hanfmann is a 30-year-old German who took out Thanasi Kokkinakis with the loss of just seven games, as the Australian was drained from his title run last week in Adelaide.  Three years ago at Roland Garros, Yannick earned only six games against Rafa.

Barbora Krejcikova (4) vs. Xiyu Wang (WC) – Krejickova advanced almost as easily as Barty, by a score of 6-2, 6-0.  Xiyu is a 20-year-old from China who on Monday gained her first victory in the main draw of a Major. 

Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Stefan Kozlov (WC) – Berrettini overcame some considerable stomach issues to secure a four-set win on Monday.  Kozlov is a 23-year-old American who is making his Slam debut, thanks to claiming two Challenger titles in November to earn his wild card.

Naomi Osaka (13) vs. Madison Brengle – Osaka won comfortably in the opening round, while Brengle beat Dayana Yastremska by the bizarre score line of 6-1, 0-6, 5-0(RET), with Yastremska retiring one game from defeat. 


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: US Open Champions Collide in the First Round

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Emma Raducanu practicing last week in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

At the last Major, then-18-year-old Emma Raducanu completed one of the most surprising title runs in sports history.  Ranked 150th in the world, she won 10 consecutive matches over the course of qualifying and the main draw without dropping a set, and without even contesting a tiebreak.  In only her fourth tour-level event, Emma claimed her first Major title.  She has understandably lost a few matches after such a surprising, life-changing feat.  And in the opening round of the next Major, she has drawn fellow US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

 

The other shocking finalist from this past September in New York, Leylah Fernandez, will also return to Grand Slam competition on Tuesday.  WTA action also features several multi-time Major singles champions, as well as Anett Kontaveit, who was the hottest player on tour at the end of last season.

Great Britain’s biggest male tennis star, Andy Murray, is a five-time runner-up of this tournament.  Three years ago, he played what was thought to be his last match in Australia, which included an emotional sendoff after a five-set loss to Roberto Bautista Agut.  But after multiple hip surgeries, Murray has returned to Australia, where just last week in Sydney, he reached his first ATP final since 2019.  At that event, he overcame Nikoloz Basilashvili in a grueling three-hour three-setter.  On Tuesday, they will meet again.

Other ATP action includes US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Roland Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Australian No.1 Alex de Minaur.

Each day this preview will highlight the five most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.   Tuesday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.


Nikoloz Basilashvili (21) vs. Andy Murray (WC) – Not Before 3:00pm on John Cain Arena

Since missing last February’s Australian Open due to a positive COVID test, Murray is a modest 19-16 at tour level, yet has shown consistent progress throughout that run.  At the end of last season, he earned two top 10 victories (Hurkacz, Sinner).  Basilashvili gained 35 victories in 2021, winning two titles and also reaching the final of Indian Wells.  But at the Majors, he went only 3-4.  In addition to Andy’s victory last week in Sydney, he also defeated Nikoloz in the first round of Wimbledon last June.  Both their matches have been tight, but with both going to Murray, the Brit is the favorite on this day as well.  He possesses much more variety than Basilashvili, and is eager to prove he can still be a factor at Slams.


Angelique Kerber (16) vs. Kaia Kanepi – Fourth on Kia Arena

Due to suffering from COVID-19 in December, Kerber has not played a match since Indian Wells in October.  And as Simona Halep’s former coach Darren Cahill has often stated, Kanepi is one of the last people any player wants to see as their opening round draw.  He speaks from experience: Kaia upset Simona in the first round of the 2018 US Open.  As per Tennis Abstract, that’s one of eight top 10 victories Kanepi has at Majors, which also includes a win last year here over the defending champion, Sofia Kenin.  The 36-year-old Estonian is a six-time Slam quarterfinalist, and claimed two ITF events in the second half of last year.  These players have split four previous meetings, though they haven’t played in over eight years.  Considering Kerber’s interrupted preparation for this tournament, Kanepi has a great opportunity to score another first round upset at a Major.


Alex de Minaur (32) vs. Lorenzo Musetti – 7:00pm on Margaret Court Arena

De Minaur loves this first month of the season in his home country.  He went 2-1 at the ATP Cup, earning impressive wins over Matteo Berrettini and Ugo Humbert.  He’s yet to advance to the second week of his home Slam, but that could change this week in an open section of the draw, where Casper Ruud is the highest-ranked player.  Musetti is one of many standout young Italians.  The 20-year-old started last season by reaching two Challenger finals, then coming through qualifying to be the runner-up in Acapulco.  But his results tapered off from there, losing more matches than he won for the rest of 2021.  However, his flashy style should make for a fun contrast to the speed of the Australian.  And Alex will certainly feel the pressure of competing in Australia, especially during the night session.  This could turn into one of the most compelling matches of Day 2.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Mikael Ymer – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Tsitsipas is still working to get back to 100% after undergoing elbow surgery in the offseason, which casts doubt as to whether he is ready for best-of-five competition.  Stefanos had a great 2021, accumulating 55 wins.  At this event a year ago, he earned one of the signature wins of his career: a comeback from two-sets-down over Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals.  Ymer is a 23-year-old from Sweden who last year in Melbourne achieved his first appearance in the third round of a Major.  But that’s where he ran into Tsitsipas, who comfortably defeated him 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.  I would expect their meeting this year to be much closer, yet despite his recent elbow issues, the Greek remains the favorite to advance.


Emma Raducanu (17) vs. Sloane Stephens – Last on Margaret Court Arena

Since the US Open, Raducanu is only 2-4, and is another player who battled COVID-19 in the offseason.  In her only match thus far this year, she lost to Elena Rybakina 6-0, 6-1.  Considering how talented the 19-year-old is, and with the accomplished Torben Beltz now her coach, good results are assumedly ahead of her.  But they may not be immediate, as Emma tries to adjust to her new normal as a huge star, and as a Major champion.  Sloane Stephens is someone who can relate to that situation, as her 2017 US Open title run also came as a surprise, coming shortly after missing almost a year of action.  The American went just 19-18 last year, and is yet to play in 2022 after recently getting married.  But in this battle of US Open champs, Sloane should be favored.  Raducanu is going to feel much different at this Major than her last, with all the attention and expectations she is now experiencing.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Garbine Muguruza (3) vs. Clara Burel – Muguruza is coming off the third-biggest title of her career, winning the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.  She was a finalist here two years ago.  Burel is a 20-year-old from France who reached four ITF finals and one WTA final last season.

Anett Kontaveit (6) vs. Katerina Siniakova – Kontaveit ended 2021 by going 29-4, and winning an astounding four titles in just over two months.  Siniakova is the No.1 doubles player in the world, who earned significant singles victories last year over Serena Williams as well as Muguruza.  Anett leads their head-to-head 4-1, which includes two wins within the last six months.

Leylah Fernandez (23) vs. Maddison Inglis (WC) – Like Raducanu, Fernandez has struggled to immediately follow-up on her US Open run, going just 3-2 since.  Inglis is a 24-year-old Australian who at a lower-level event three years ago lost to Leylah in a third set tiebreak.

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Henri Laaksonen – With Djokovic out of the tournament, Medvedev is now the favorite, but how will he perform with that knowledge?  Laaksonen is a 29-year-old from Switzerland who advanced to the third round of two Slams last season.  During a 2019 Davis Cup tie, Medvedev defeated him in three sets.

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Storm Sanders (WC) – Sabalenka has endured an awful start to 2022.  She is 0-2, and is dealing with some major technical issues on her serve, striking 39 double faults across those two losses.  Storm Sanders is a 24-year-old Australian who won a double stitle two weeks ago with Ash Barty.  She is seeking her first-ever singles win at a Major.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open: Women’s First Round Blockbusters on Day One

The draw for the Australian Open 2022 has been made and the schedule has also been released for opening day

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Paula Badosa last week in Sydney (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The draw for the Australian Open 2022 has been made and the schedule has also been released ahead of tomorrow’s opening day.

 

I think the battle of the American’s, Sofia Kenin vs Madison Keys is going to be a fantastic match.

On the one hand, Kenin is a Grand Slam champion having won here in Australia two years ago, beating two-time Major champion Garbiñe Muguruza.

Kenin, 23, may have reached the final of the French Open later that year, but she has largely struggled with injuries since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, Keys reached her only Grand Slam final way back in 2017 at the US Open, losing comprehensively on home soil to compatriot Sloane Stephens.

At 26-years-old, Keys, is no longer the prodigy she once was. Although her form has nosedived in recent years, the world number 87 won the Adelaide title last week to suggest she might be making a comeback.

Both players have a point to prove and hard-courts are arguably their best surface. I am expecting a decent match.

Spain’s Paula Badosa takes on Australian number two Ajla Tomljanovic, partner of men’s player and last year’s Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini.

Badosa made her big breakthrough last year, rising to a high of six in the world that brought with it a first Masters 1000 victory, as she stunned Victoria Azarenka at Indian Wells, in three sets.

Although, she has struggled at the Grand Slams, with a quarter-final appearance at last year’s French Open, her deepest run to date.

However, last week’s triumph in Sydney will give Badosa fresh optimism she can go deep in Melbourne.

Croatian born Tomljanovic may often stand in Ashleigh Barty’s shadow in the Australian women’s game, but she is a talented player and could cause an upset on home soil.

Next up is Belinda Bencic who takes on Kristina Mladenovic.

Swiss Bencic might be remembered by some fans as Roger Federer’s partner in crime, where she helped the 20-time Grand Slam champion win the popular Hopman Cup event in its final edition back in 2019. This backed up their 2018 victory.

Bencic has been inconsistent but still won the Dubai Duty Free Championships that same year and won Olympic Gold at last year’s COVID delayed Tokyo Olympics.

Mladenovic’s form may have plummeted but she is a former top-ten player and a seasoned doubles player, having won five-doubles Grand Slam titles.

Now at 91 in the world, she is unlikely to be a threat to Bencic, but in tennis, anything can happen.

The other matches to look out for would be Czech ace, and current French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who entertains veteran German Andrea Petkovic.

And finally, 2017 French Open champion and last year’s Eastbourne International winner Jelena Ostapenko, 24, plays Anna Schmiedlova.

The Slovakian knows how to cause an upset after big wins over Venus Williams and Azarenka at the 2020 French Open, and another upset could be on the cards.

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