Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov says he will refuse to play in the Australian Open if the smoke smothering the city poses a health risk.
The 20-year-old’s comments come after competitors slammed tournament organisers for allowing qualifying to go ahead on Tuesday – despite bushfire smoke settling in Melbourne.
While Shapovalov declared the Grand Slam to be a ‘big opportunity’, the world no. 13 said he ‘wouldn’t play’ amid the hazy conditions.
‘Obviously, it’s a Grand Slam, it’s a big opportunity, but I’m 20 years old,’ he said.
‘I don’t want to risk my life, risk my health, being out there playing in these conditions when I can for the next 10, 15 years.’
Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov says he will refuse to play in the Australian Open if the smoke smothering the city poses a health risk
The 20-year-old comment’s come after competitors slammed tournament organisers for allowing qualifying to go ahead on Tuesday – despite bushfire smoke settling in Melbourne
Shapovalov is scheduled to play Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics in the first round on Monday at 11am.
Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire her qualifying match on Tuesday after she collapsed to her knees in a coughing fit brought on by the smoke.
Speaking to Jakupovic’s collapse, the Canadian said organisers should have learnt something need to be changed.
‘I don’t know who needs to step up, but someone needs to take initiative and look after the players,’ he said.
‘You get warnings from the news telling people to stay inside, that it’s not good for your health to be outside, to be breathing this stuff, and then you get an email from the tournament saying that it’s playable and you guys have to go out there and put your life in jeopardy, put your health in jeopardy.
‘You see the effects on players it has right now, the last couple of days, but you don’t know what it’s going to do later in our lives and how it could affect us if we’re breathing this air in for two weeks.’
Slovenian player Dalila Jakupovic collapsed on the court mid-match on Tuesday after suffering a coughing fit
Amid Shapovalov’s concerns, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal expect the tournament to go on safely.
‘I really cannot believe that the most important committee in the world wants bad health for the competitors,’ Nadal said.
‘So that answer convinced me. I am here to play.’
Tournament director Craig Tiley defended the handling of the smoke issue on Thursday, but admitted effectively communicating their approach on air quality to players had been tricky.
Tiley promised greater transparency and followed up with the release of the air quality policy that will be used throughout the Open.
The policy is based on the concentration levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, in the air as determined by real-time monitoring sites around Melbourne Park.
Former Wimbeldon finalist Eugenie Bouchard (pictured on Tuesday) was also reported to have sought medical attention after complaining about a ‘sore chest’
Former world No.1 Maria Sharapova’s (pictured on Tuesday) Kooyong Classic match was called off late in the second set as she struggled in the heat and smokey conditions
There are five levels of air quality under the policy depending on how much PM2.5 is present.
Conditions are closely monitored at Air Quality Rating 4 and play may be suspended when there are between 97 and 200 PM2.5 units present.
If the threshold of 200 units is passed, Air Quality Rating 5, then play is suspended – and Federer is OK with that.
‘Go in the streets, ask the people if they want it to move from Melbourne or from Australia. No, I don’t worry,’ Federer said on Saturday.
‘From what we were told in the player meeting, the Olympic Games and other competitions have the numbers set at 300. Ours is set at 200.
Roger Federer speaks to the media during an Australian Open press conference at Melbourne Park on Saturday
‘From that standpoint, I think we’re moving in a very safe range. We’re not here for six months straight at over 200, 300, you know.
‘That’s when maybe effects really become bad.
‘I don’t worry too much, to be honest. I worry more for everybody else who is in the fire, in the smoke.
‘Also we can stay indoors all day, quickly go out and play, go back in again.
‘It’s not like we’re stuck outside at all times.
‘I think we’re going to get through it and it should be fine. It shouldn’t move, no.’
Smoke from bushfires in Victoria fills the sky over Melbourne city on Tuesday