Broady urges players to ‘take stand’ over poor air in Melbourne

Britain’s Liam Broady has called on his fellow players to “make a stand” about the Australian Open’s decision not to postpone qualifying matches because of poor air quality.

Play on Tuesday was delayed for only an hour despite readings showing wildfire smoke blowing across the city had made Melbourne one of the worst cities in the world for air quality.

A number of players sought treatment including taking asthma inhalers while Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic retired from her match after having a coughing fit on court.

Broady played his first-round match on Tuesday, losing to Ilya Ivashka, and is determined that the issue is not forgotten after much clearer air returned to the city on Thursday.

The 26-year-old from Stockport hopes it could be the catalyst for further discussion of a players’ union, something that ATP player council president Novak Djokovic has pushed in the past.

Tournament organisers have been put on the back foot by the vociferous criticism of their handling of the situation, which a message to players has evidently done little to appease.

In a message on Twitter, Broady said: “The more I think about the conditions we played in a few days ago, the more it boils my blood. We can’t let this slide.

Australian firefighters have been battling to try to control extensive bush fires
Australian firefighters have been battling to try to control extensive bush fires (Rick Rycroft/AP)

“The email we received yesterday from the ATP and AO was a slap in the face. Conditions were ‘playable’. Were they healthy? Citizens of Melbourne were warned to keep their animals indoors the day I played qualifying, and yet we were expected to go outside for high intensity physical competition?

“What do we have to do to create a players’ union? Where is the protection for players, both male and female? When multiple players need asthma spray on court and they don’t even have asthma? When a player collapses and has to retire due to respiratory issues?

“On tour we let so many things go that aren’t right but at some point we have to make a stand. ALL players need protection not just a select few.”

Tournament organisers insist they are taking the issue very seriously and only sent players out on Tuesday after being advised by experts that it was safe to do so.

Conditions at Melbourne Park are being constantly monitored and further decisions will be made using the onsite data and in close consultation with our medical team, @BOM_au and scientists from @EPA_Victoria.

— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 14, 2020

But notably play was delayed for longer on Wednesday despite very similar conditions while Dr Brett Sutton, the chief health officer for the state of Victoria, said the tournament should come up with a clear policy.

Although air quality has now improved, there remains the distinct possibility the smoke could return during the tournament.

Eighteen-time grand slam singles champion Chris Evert believes the health of players must be the priority.

American great Chris Evert has weighed in on the issue
American great Chris Evert has weighed in on the issue (Isabel Infantes/PA)

The ESPN analyst said: “It is a health issue, and especially when it gets on to three out of five sets and you’re out there for a long time. You want to be able to breathe some clean air.

“I think that they really have to keep a close eye on it. The tournament seems to be such a small sort of thing compared to what’s happening in the country but I would put the players’ health first for sure and, even if they had to play at a different time, it doesn’t matter. We’re talking about lives.”

Meanwhile, a disappointing qualifying tournament for British players continued with a first-round defeat for Samantha Murray Sharan, who lost 2-6 6-4 6-2 to China’s Yuan Yue.

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