In this Dec. 31, 2019, photo provided by Siobhan Threlfall, a fire approaches the village of Nerrigundah, Australia. The tiny village has been among the hardest hit by Australia's devastating wildfires, with about two thirds of the homes destroyed and a 71-year-old man killed. (AP Photo/Siobhan Threlfall)
MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan 15: Australian Open officials delayed the start of play by two hours on the second day of qualifying until smoke from regional wildfires cleared later Wednesday.
Smoke and hazy conditions at Melbourne Park on Tuesday affected the opening day’s play with organizers criticized for allowing qualifying matches to proceed.
A number of players complained, including Australian Bernard Tomic, who sought medical treatment during his first-round loss when he struggled to breathe. Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic feared she would pass out before retiring from her match when she collapsed to her knees with a coughing spell.
On Wednesday, Canadian qualifier Brayden Schur said Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were “selfish” and more concerned about their legacies, saying it’s time the pair stepped up and protested against playing conditions during qualifying.
The world No. 103, who is the third seed in the Open qualifying tournament, was critical of officials after his first-round win over Austrian Sebastian Ofner, which took over two hours in the hazy conditions that blanketed Melbourne Park on Wednesday.
He also said it was incumbent upon the biggest names in the sport to be the voice for lesser-known players.
“It’s got to come from the top guys — Roger and Rafa are a little bit selfish in thinking about themselves and their careers,” Schur said. “Because they’re near the end and all they’re thinking about is their legacy and they’re not thinking about the sport itself and trying to do what’s good for the sport. So those guys need to step up.”
Schur battled with conditions, which he described as like smoking a cigarette.
“You feel super dryness in your throat,” he said. “That’s 100% not normal and players who have asthma are at a huge disadvantage right now.”
Organizers delayed play by three hours on Wednesday but the air quality index when the players took to court was still graded as “unhealthy” due to the smoke from the bush fires in Victoria.”