Smoke haze again forces delay in Australian Open qualifying

National Sports

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 (AP) — Australian Open officials delayed the start of play by two hours Wednesday on the second day of qualifying until smoke from regional wild fires cleared.

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 Bernard Tomic, who sought medical treatment during his first-round loss when he struggled to breathe. 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 BraydenSchnur 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 103rd-ranked player, who is seeded third in the qualifying tournament, was critical of officials after his first-round win over Sebastian Ofner, which took more than two hours in the hazy conditions that blanketed Melbourne Park on Wednesday.

He 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,” Schnur 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.”

Schnur battled 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 on Wednesday but the air quality index when the players took to court was still graded as “unhealthy” because of the smoke from the bush fires in Victoria.

The Australian Open begins Monday.

___

More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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