- The city of Melbourne is polluted by the toxic fumes of the fires which ravage the region.
- Qualifying for the Australian Open began on Monday despite the air. A player gave up and a ball collector became unwell.
- Contacted by 20 minutes, Chloé Paquet and Mathias Bourgue, both involved in Melbourne, talk about very difficult playing conditions.
On Tuesday morning, Melbourne woke up to a mass of greyish smoke, the poisonous fruit of the fires that ravage much of Australia, prompting the city to advise residents to stay cloistered at home. The instruction extends to animals: even horse races have been canceled due to the stifling atmosphere. The air quality index went up to 350 – to give you an idea of the disaster, Paris and its index at 40 pass for high mountains – in short, you will understand, the conditions are hostile. So it’s only logical that the organization
of the Australian Open has decided to continue the first qualifying round.
The first victim of this heresy is Dalila Jakupovic, suffocating and forced to abandon. “The points were getting longer and I couldn't breathe on the court. I couldn't stay up, regretted the player at a press conference. I was really scared. I was afraid of collapsing, that's why I got down. I couldn't walk anymore. A ball collector also became unwell. But other than that, tournament director Craig Tiley is on the verge of saying that everything is for the best in the best of all worlds.
Player gives up in Melbourne due to smoke from fires via @ grouvysport.comSport https://t.co/1vgwOT9cZu
– 20 Minutes Sport (@ grouvysport.comSport) January 14, 2020
"You can go to several sites and several applications which will give you a poor understanding of the situation. To avoid this, we made the decision, before the start of the qualifications, to have precise data on the site that we collect in real time. We have air quality meters on site. We follow the advice of independent medical experts, environmental specialists and scientists. "The opinion of the players seems to count a little less and some are starting to worry about it, starting with Chloé Paquet and
Mathias Bourgue. Contacted by 20 minutes, the two Frenchmen play their first qualifying round in Melbourne on Wednesday and do not know which sauce they will be eaten.
What are the conditions in Melbourne, how do you breathe there?
Chloé Paquet: Today’s a bit weird today. We wake up, we see that the sky is not going at all, that it’s very cloudy. We can still see ten meters away but I have an apartment and it's true that in the distance, we can't see at all. I didn't play today, I just had a driving range scheduled at 11 a.m. No news from the tournament, we are starting to contact the other players to see if we can hit the ball. We arrive on the site and at 9:30 am as if nothing had happened we were told yes, yes you can play. Everyone was typing, all the courts were taken. And when we hit it, it was fine this morning, but it’s true that in the end it was hard to breathe when there was a fairly long exchange. With my partner, we thought it was not easy, that it scratched my throat, that we were starting to have a headache.
We talk to the other players, we tell ourselves it's a little weird, it's not easy to breathe and after eating I went to watch a few games to see how it went including that of Jakupovic, who is a friend. We saw that it was very difficult for the players to breathe, we saw them each time folded in half to catch their breath. And at one point, we see Dalila who can no longer continue and immediately they stop her and say "play, set and match" when she led 6-4 and ball 6-6. So it was quite amazing. I went to see another game, it was (Eugénie) Bouchard, the two players were embarrassed. We could see that it was very hard physically.
Mathias Bourgue: So far it has been pretty good. When I arrived in Melbourne on Thursday, there was nothing to worry about. To be honest, I found that in the newspapers, we did too much. But yesterday evening at the end of the day, it started to deteriorate. There, we see less well, a bit like in China when the weather is nice but it is still covered. And this morning when we woke up we saw nothing. We could barely see the buildings short ones. They waited for the first warm-ups to decide to postpone the first games. After an hour of warming up with Nico Mahut, we felt that it blocked the lungs. We get tired very quickly. It’s fatigue comparable to excessive cigarette smoking that closes your lungs.
How is the tournament organized? Did they contact you?
C.P: No news. Seeing the air quality radars, we see that it is not good and that they let us play, that all the activities in Melbourne are canceled but that we tennis we do a little as if nothing was. This afternoon it looked very complicated. I went back to my apartment and we waited for the programming that just came out. No message for tomorrow, everything is maintained. So there you go, I'm supposed to be playing in the third rotation, tomorrow from 10 a.m.
M.B: This morning they postponed the games by an hour because conditions were expected to improve. The organizers tell us that they have hired guys specializing in air quality, meteorologists to see if it is playable or not but it is a shame that we do not take into account the feelings of the players. There are more worried players than calm players, some have already questioned ATP, without response.
Have you had any medical recommendations, about wearing a mask, or others?
C.P : No, nobody tells us to wear a mask or anything. Now we still see that on Twitter players are starting to scold. We even see players on the board who say it's not okay to play. Even Svitolina tweeted. Then can players like Roger (Federer) or Djoko do something? I think yes. Only they can make a difference. But we wonder, if the table matches would be played with conditions like that. The qualifiers, they don't care a bit more …
M.B: I had no medical recommendations, no instructions. There has been no communication on this. At any time, the matches may end. That's all. Anyone who warmed up before 9 a.m. was told it was their responsibility. The big picture starts in a week, we the qualifiers we are not considered important so they don’t care. After yes, if it doesn't improve and a Federer or Nadal says that he is unable to play 100%, maybe his voice will carry. But meanwhile…