Omni Sports: Smoke haze again forces delay in Australian Open qualifying

Melbourne Air Pollution

"Practice has been suspended until 11am this morning due to air quality concerns, and play won't start before 1pm", read a statement from Tennis Australia.

Fun and generosity were the order of the day at the Rally for Relief charity match in Melbourne as the world's biggest tennis stars served up a treat to raise money for the Australian bushfires fund. He described playing in Melbourne as akin to smoking a cigarette.

"You get it through the news how bad it really is, but then you hear more and more about it and you get the sense that it's really, really bad".

A fan in a respiratory mask at Melbourne Park this week.

Players are speaking out about the issue on social media.

Although the health official said the air was very poor or unsafe, the qualifying round for the tournament started on Tuesday ... and several players have already complained about the conditions.

Larner added, "We will stop if conditions become unsafe based on medical advice".

Qualifying was delayed for more than an hour on Tuesday but organisers were criticised for allowing it to resume, with Slovenia's Dalila Jakupovic forced to retire after suffering a coughing fit during her match.

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Speaking to the Indian Express earlier, Nagal had said he had "never seen anything like this in the four times I've been here". "I actually like the heat", Jakupovic said. "But the points were a bit longer and I just couldn't breathe anymore and I just fell on the floor".

Jakupovic agreed, saying, "It's not healthy for us".

'The awareness has grown and I think we're doing everything we possibly can to overcome this'.

The decision to push back the time players take the court followed a qualifier retiring with breathing difficulties yesterday (Jan 14) and Canadian Eugenie Bouchard needing medical attention. Tomic even called for an asthma puffer during the second set as the smoke took its toll.

At the Kooyong Classic exhibition event, also held in Melbourne, Russia's former No. 1 Maria Sharapova also struggled in the heat and smoke before her match was called off in the second set.

The decision to suspend the action was heavily criticized when the players were hit by risky conditions after being allowed to play on Tuesday. But there is no magic wand to solve this problem.

The EPA's air quality controller Jason Choi told state radio the smoke would likely linger until Wednesday when afternoon showers were forecast.

The fund-raising efforts, which includes various amounts for aces served during the tournament and the sale of merchandise donated by players, will continue when the Australian Open begins on Monday.

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