Sports

Will bushfires affect Australian Open tennis?

MELBOURNE: The Australian Open tennis Grand Slam starts next week in the midst of a bushfire crisis that has left at least 27 people dead and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

Toxic air pollution clouded Melbourne on Tuesday (Jan 14), halting practice sessions and slightly delaying qualifying.

Advertisement

Advertisement

READ: Australian Open practice suspended due to poor air quality

AFP Sport looks at the implications for players and fans at the first Major tennis tournament of the year, which starts on Monday:

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS?

Air pollution could pose health problems for players, fans and officials, especially in the high temperatures of the Australian summer.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Until Tuesday, Melbourne hadn't been as badly affected as Canberra or Sydney, but conditions deteriorated suddenly.

Air pollution shot up to "hazardous" levels, city authorities said, telling residents to stay indoors and keep pets inside.

Australian Open practice was suspended and qualifying delayed. Slovenian qualifier Dalila Jakupovic had to retire from her match after suffering a coughing fit, although it wasn't clear if pollution was to blame.

However, Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley has said he expects the tournament to go ahead as scheduled.

"We don't expect any delays and we've implemented additional measures to ensure the Australian Open will be able to run as scheduled," Tiley said last week.

HOW BAD CAN IT GET?

Fires are still burning in Victoria, where Melbourne is the state capital, and could continue throughout the tournament, with huge blazes to the city's east.

"It is going to depend on the prevailing winds and whether we have ongoing fires," Christine Jenkins, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, told AFP.

"It's still an open question just whether or not we could still have further periods of intense pollution."

On Tuesday, air quality monitors recorded pollution at 20 times greater than safe levels in some parts of Melbourne.

"There is very definitely the threat of fire that could cause significant air pollution in Melbourne," Jenkins said.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH RISKS?

Players who are recovering from respiratory tract infections are particularly at risk, as well as those with asthma.

Pollution can irritate the respiratory tract, intensifying and prolonging symptoms — but the health dangers don't stop there.

"It (pollution) increases the risks of respiratory symptoms, cardiovascular disorder, eye symptoms, or mental disorders," warned Professor Yuming Guo, head of the Climate, Air Quality Research Unit at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University in Melbourne.

"All these would influence of the performance of the players."

WHAT'S BEING DONE FOR PLAYERS?

Meteorological and air quality experts will be on site to monitor conditions. Any smoke hazards will be treated in a similar way to extreme heat and rain, with umpires able to stop play if air monitoring shows it is too dangerous to continue.

Melbourne Park, the venue for the Australian Open, has three roofed stadiums and eight other indoor courts. While facemasks are impractical for players, Jenkins advised them to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.

"Staying well hydrated keeps the respiratory membranes well moistened and less prone to irritative symptoms," she said.

"Avoiding alcohol, getting plenty of rest, sleeping normal hours and not being outdoors any more than you need to be. Difficult for players, because they're on practice courts and they're constantly trying to keep their (practice) hours up."

HAVE THE FIRES AFFECTED OTHER EVENTS?

Last Read More – Source