for the Australian Open, the fire test

The city of Melbourne enveloped in the smoke of the fires on January 14, the opening day of qualifying for the Australian Open.
The city of Melbourne enveloped in the smoke of the fires on January 14, the opening day of qualifying for the Australian Open. REUTERS

The number one enemy of organizers and tennis players has never been so blessed. In recent days, Melbourne Park, the Australian Open theater, has been invoking all the gods, be they apostles in the backhand with one hand or the forehand lifted, to make the rain come down. The thunderstorms that broke out on the evening of Wednesday, January 15, in the State of Victoria and the precipitation that followed made everyone smile, five days before the start of the tournament. And above all contributed to dissipate the cloud of toxic fumes emanating from the gigantic fires which ravage the south-east of the country, under which the metropolis was engulfed since the beginning of the week.

Read also Australia: rain finally falls on fires

Tuesday, for the opening of the qualifications for the first Grand Slam of the season, scheduled from January 20 to February 2, the organizers could not have imagined a worse scenario. Melbourne woke up in thick fog that stung the eyes and scratched the throat. The municipal authorities had asked residents to remain confined to their homes and not to take their animals out. Two horse races have been canceled.

Scientists at the Australian Open having given the go-ahead, players were breathing deeply that would oscillate all day long between the very unhealthy and the dangerous. "Athletes are more exposed the more they inhale the air more deeply, says Michael Abramson, doctor. I was surprised to see the players outside. "

The silence of Federer and Nadal

Spectators in the stands had their faces masked. On the field, some players were offered an inhaler, like the local Bernard Tomic, who had the unpleasant impression of "Not being able to breathe". “All the players had headaches, chest pains, difficulty breathing. It was horrible ", testified the Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic (180e world), on BBC Radio 5 Live. Shaken by a violent fit of cough and spasm, she was forced to give up.

On Wednesday morning, the air still tasted and smelled of smoke, leading the organizers to delay the matches by three hours before they were suspended after the first angel drops. While most of the players managed to end their meetings, sometimes by seeking medical help, many of them expressed concern and anger.

Read also Tennis: Australian Open games delayed due to fire smoke

"In thirty-five years, this is the first time I have had to use an asthma spray to help me breathe better", lamented German Dustin Brown on Twitter. The Canadian Brayden Schnur challenged the tennis stars, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the lead, silent in the face of the controversy. "It must come from those who are at the very top. Roger and Rafa are a little selfish about thinking about themselves and their careers ”, he got annoyed.


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