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Roger Federer hits back at claims of inaction over air quality concerns at Australian Open

‘So what can I do?’: Roger Federer hits back at claims of inaction over air quality concerns at Australian Open

  • Roger Federer will play Steve Johnson in Australian Open first round match
  • This year’s event has been troubled by smoke from the Australian bushfires 
  • The Swiss was criticised over his attitude towards air quality at tournament
  • Federer hit back and insisted that there was not much he was able to do 

Roger Federer resurfaced at the Australian Open – and it was not the usual early season celebration of the sport’s highest profile athlete and his remarkable longevity.

Instead the 38 year-old Swiss had to defend himself against accusations that the top players do not care enough about their lower-ranked bretheren, something that has been brought to the fore by the issue of air quality.

Canadian Brayden Schnur was among those playing in the qualifying event who inferred that the most important figures in the game were not sufficiently supportive of those who had to play in hazy smoke earlier in the week.

Roger Federer has refuted claims he has not been vocal enough at the Australian Open

Federer bridled at the suggestion as he prepared to play what will be only his first tournament of the season on Monday.

‘So what can I do? I can go to the office, speak to them (organisers),’ said the world number three. 

‘I went to them the first day when it was bad on Tuesday, the next day on Wednesday when it was still bad. I told them, “Look, I just think communication is key for all of us, for everybody. We just need to do more because I feel like I hadn’t gotten enough information”‘

‘Can I go on court and say, “Everybody stop play”? I can try.. I don’t think that’s going to do much. Some media are happy to hammer home with that subject because it’s a new one. Maybe it was all a bit late.

‘But I don’t think I can do more than what I did. I’m on the (Player) Council. I’ve been on the tour for so long, I came through the lower ranks, the juniors. At the end of the day we all care for one another. We cross paths in the locker room. We’re all cool, you know.’ 

Canadian player Brayden Schnur was critical of leading players amid air quality concerns

Canadian player Brayden Schnur was critical of leading players amid air quality concerns

Federer is also aware that in an individual sport players do not tend to be backward about coming forward when they have a grievance.

‘I understand some frustration always because this tour, whatever it may be, is never perfect. Some guys are always going to complain.

‘ I think we’re all confused, unsafe or is it totally safe to play? The problem on top of it, it was actually quite hot (last week), too. Some players are not used to playing in 35, 33-degree heat, especially if you’ve practiced in the indoor season. I’m not saying they’re not ready or whatever it is, but it can always hit you.’ 

The Swiss will play his first tournament of the year and faces american Steve Johnson first up

The Swiss will play his first tournament of the year and faces american Steve Johnson first up

Federer, in common with many players, said that he would follow on-site specialist advice and fully expects to play.

However the issue may well not recede entirely and rising Canadian star Denis Shapovalov declared that he would forfeit a match if unhappy with the conditions.

‘This should have been thought about weeks before, it shouldn’t be something that we have to be dealing with right now,’ he said. 

‘I don’t want to risk my life, risk my health being out there when I can (play) for the next 10-15 years. I think everyone’s kind of on the same page in terms of how it is. I don’t think anyone’s happy with the way things are being dealt with.’ 

Expectations that the air quality might deteriorate for the what was the final rounds of the qualifying event did not materialise. Conditions were relatively clear as the last matches were mopped up ahead of Monday’s start.

Federer will play American Steve Johnson, and is aware that he is lacking matchplay. This was of his own choosing as he declined to play in the ATP Cup earlier in the month, opting instead to participate in some lucrative exhibitions in China just after Christmas.

‘I got to really make sure I get out of the gates quick,’ he said. 

‘Practice has been going well. Had plenty of time to pace myself and do all the things I had to do to get ready. I hope it’s enough. My expectations are quite low.’

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk