Australian bushfires raging across the country hit tennis stars with its smoke on Tuesday. Slovenian tennis professional Dalila Jakupovic had to retire from her Australian Open qualifying match after suffering a coughing fit due to smoke. "I was really scared that I would collapse... it's not healthy for us. I was surprised, I thought we would not be playing today but we don't have much choice," Dalila Jakupovic told reporters. Toxic smoke blew overnight in Melbourne, the city which is set to host Australian Open -- the first of the four Grand Slam tennis events -- starting on Monday.
Awful scenes in Melbourne.— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) January 14, 2020
Dalila Jakupovic has abandoned her #AusOpen qualifying match after suffering a coughing fit while playing in thick smoke caused by the #AustralianFires. pic.twitter.com/WAJv6TzTjW
World number one Rafael Nadal abandoned his outdoor practice session and decided to hit indoors.
Australian Open qualifying rounds went ahead after a two-hour delay in the morning, causing anger and confusion for some players who said matches should have been cancelled for the day.
Mandy Minella, the world number 140 from Luxembourg, expressed "shock" to see qualifying matches being played amid the toxic environment.
"Shocked to see that qualifying matches have started @Australian Open, What about the health of all the people that have to work out there, especially the ballkids?" she asked in a tweet.
Shocked to see that qualifying matches have started @AustralianOpen— mandy minella (@mandyminella) January 14, 2020
What about the health of all the people that have to work out there, especially the ballkids? #wherearethelimits? pic.twitter.com/2oldEptT2g
An exhibition match involving former world number one Maria Sharapova was also called off due to the smoke.
The hazy conditions were not expected to last all week in Melbourne, with a change in wind direction and the forecast wet weather set to clear the city's air by Wednesday night.
(With AFP inputs)