Australian Open tennis player collapses in coughing fit due to thick smoke from wildfires

Dalila Jakupovic was in the lead before had to retire from the match.

A professional tennis player competing in an Australian Open qualifying match in Melbourne was forced to retire after she suffered a coughing fit from thick smoke caused by the catastrophic bushfires.

Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia fell to her knees Tuesday when she was about to serve during the Round 1 Open qualifying match.

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

Jakupovic, currently ranked 180th in the world, was leading against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele when she had to retire.

The logistics of the tournament became a cause of concern as bushfires continue to rage on in Australia, including in the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located.

This season’s fires, which began about four months earlier than normal, have been especially devastating for the country. Over 15 million acres have burned, at least 25 people have died and an ecologist at The University of Sydney estimates that more than one billion animals have perished.

Jakupovic has now joined a chorus of players speaking out against playing in the conditions.

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

Elina Svitolina, a Ukranian tennis player, tweeted, “Why do we need to wait for something bad to happen to do an action [sic].”

Her tweet included a photo of the AQI (air quality index) at 200 Tuesday afternoon local time, well above the 0 to 50 standards for a good AQI and considered very unhealthy.

The AQI in Melbourne as of early Wednesday local time was listed as 167 and categorized as unhealthy, according to the World Air Quality Index.

Australian Open organizers did not immediately respond to ABC News for comment, but a tweet from its official account read that the qualifying matches on Tuesday were pushed back an hour and practice was temporarily suspended “due to poor air quality.”

“As always the health and safety of our players, our staff and our fans is our priority,” the tweet read.

Last week, the Australian Open spoke in favor of its stadiums, saying there the tournament has three-roofed stadiums and eight indoor courts.

“In the unlikely case of extreme smoke conditions, the roofs will be closed on the 3 stadium courts and play will continue in their air-conditioned, air-filtered environment,” according to a tweet Australian Open’s official Twitter account.

“If smoke infiltrates the 3 stadium courts,” the tweet read, “the air conditioning system will filter it out.”

The smoke from the fires has not only affected Australia, but New Zealand and South America, according to NASA researchers who have been tracking the smoke’s path.

It crossed South America, about halfway around the Earth, turning the skies hazy and causing colorful sunrises and sunsets, according to the space agency.

NASA predicted that the smoke would make at least one full circuit around the globe, making its return to Australia skies.

MORE NEWS

Homeless mothers evicted from vacant home

Esper: DOD prepared to provide more money for wall

Iran announces arrests over shootdown of plane

NSA finds Windows 10 security flaw

UN sets 2030 deadline to combat mass extinction

Aly Raisman won’t compete in 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Possible non-binary option for driver’s licenses

Masked man born before World War II holds up bank

Saudi Arabia executed record number in 2019

Baby in car stolen while parents gambled

Wine demand falls for the 1st time in 25 years

Wisconsin court puts voter rolls purge on hold

Hay tainted by toxic beetles kills 14 horses

EU launches Iran nuclear deal dispute action

Standoff ends hours after man killed by police

Rift over Harry-Meghan plans can be settled: UK PM

Museum crowdfunding to buy Bernini bronze bust

World’s top asset manager shifts focus to climate

Fire in NYC high-rise injures 22 people

Priest on trial, accused of sexually abusing boys

Teen charged in swatting ring linked to neo-Nazis

SHARE THIS POST