Tennis player retires in coughing fit as bushfire smoke haze blankets Melbourne

Bushfire smoke blankets Melbourne on January 14. Photo: AAP

Bushfire smoke blankets Melbourne on January 14. Photo: AAP Photo: AAP

The hazardous air pollution enveloping Melbourne has forced a player out of next week’s Australian Open after she succumbed to a coughing fit and was forced to retire from qualifying Tuesday.

There were shocking scenes at Melbourne Park when Slovenian player Dalia Jakupovic was overcome by the bushfire smoke-induced haze  in the second set of her match against Stefanie Vogele of Switzerland.

Jakupovic won the first set 4-6 and was trailing 6-5 when she began coughing uncontrollably, forcing the match to be abandoned.

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said when it became obvious smoke could have an impact, officials had to act for the welfare of all involved – players, fans and staff.

TA says it will work with their medical team, the Bureau of Meterology and Environment Protection Authority Victoria scientists when making decisions about whether it’s healthy to play.

“This is a new experience for all of us in how we manage air quality, so we have to listen to the experts,” Tiley said.

“We have now real time raw data that we can collect – we have installed measuring devices on-site for air quality.”

Play at Melbourne Park started later than expected today as a heavy smoke haze hung over Melbourne, while AFL teams moved pre-season training inside.

The first day’s qualifying for the year’s opening tennis grand slam was delayed and practice suspended as Melbourne’s air quality ranged from hazardous to very poor.

The city’s air quality plummeted to the worst-rated level on Tuesday morning as smoke from bushfires in Victoria’s east and in NSW drifted through the state.

The city’s air quality was assessed as “good” by the Environmental Protection Authority’s AirWatch website on Monday. However the CBD recorded hazardous levels of fine particles in the air from 12am to 4am and the quality since been categorised as very poor.

Forecasts for Geelong, Latrobe Valley, Melbourne, central region, all of Gippsland and the north central region are all listed as hazardous for Tuesday by the EPA.

The air will be very poor in the northeast and poor in the northern country.

Firefighters spent Monday night being called out to fire alarms triggered by the smoke haze.

The MFB told radio station 3AW that on a normal night, crews would attend about 20 false alarms, but overnight they were called out to about 200, but each had to be treated as a potential fire.

Those with heart and respiratory issues are being told to keep out of the smoke, but even healthy people are being warned to stay inside.

The fires burning through Victoria’s east and northeast have claimed four lives, 353 homes and 548 other structures.

Sixteen fires are still burning and 1.4 million hectares has been destroyed across the state.

Slightly calmer weather forecast is allowing firefighters to try to build containment lines, while military personnel are working to make isolated towns accessible by road.

-with AAP

Topics: Bushfires
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