Smoke takes its toll at Australian Open qualy: ‘I just couldn’t breathe and fell on the floor’

Melbourne Park hazy skyline ahead of Australian Open

The Australian Open is just days away and the smoke from the bushfires across the country is starting to take its toll as a player suffered a coughing fit during qualifying while several other matches were stopped.

Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic took on Stefanie Voegel from Switzerland in the opening round of qualifying and took the first set 6-4 with the second set 5-6 on serve when she started coughing.

She fell to her knees and received medical treatment, but was unable to continue.

“I was really scared that I would collapse. That’s why I went onto the floor because I couldn’t walk anymore,” Jakupovic said.

“I don’t have asthma and never had breathing problems. I actually like heat.

“The physio came again and I thought it would be better. But the points were a bit longer and I just couldn’t breathe anymore and I just fell on the floor.”

She criticised officials for forcing players to play in the conditions.

“It’s not healthy for us. I was surprised, I thought we would not be playing today but we don’t have much choice,” she said.

Practice ahead of the Australian Open was also temporarily suspended due to poor air quality while Maria Sharpova’s exhibition match against German Laura Siegemund at the Kooyang Classic was also halted due to heavy smoke.

“I started feeling a cough coming toward the end of the second set but I’ve been sick for a few weeks so I thought that had something to do with it,” Sharapova said. “But then I heard Laura speak to the umpire and she said she was struggling with it as well.”

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