Tournament director: Australian Open is happening

Tennis

Australian Open organisers have said the tournament will go ahead despite health concerns caused by the air quality in Melbourne due to bushfires in the country.

A number of players have complained throughout the week after having to play qualifying matches in smoky conditions, which caused Dalila Jakupovic to retire after a coughing fit, while Brit Liam Broady called for greater protection of players.

In response to confusion around the state of the competition, tournament director Craig Tiley said: “There is a lot of speculation about the Australian Open not happening, or starting later.

“The Australian Open is happening.”

The Tennis Australia chief executive added that the competition — which is due to start on Monday — could continue indoors in Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and Melbourne Arena if circumstances necessitated such a move.

“We do have three indoor arenas in which we can compete,” Tiley said. “It may look differently, but the tournament will happen.

“We are speculating if that would happen, but if we had to work it out, we would. We don’t expect that to happen.”

Tiley also addressed the criticism from players, saying: “Our medical team were satisfied with the conditions that the players were competing in [in qualifying], per all of the research and the data and the science that they have.

“But they also make an assessment. You could have been two hours into those matches and have 25 people presenting themselves with a medical condition that may be related to the pollutants.

“If that’s the case, inform me and we stop.

“We understand the anger, but a lot of it comes from the confusion and the complexity of understanding what goes on. We’ve invited the players … to come in at any time to have a conversation.

“If anyone at any time is feeling not well, we have a full medical team. We have a respiratory specialist on hand to deal with any of these issues.”

Qualifying matches are scheduled to run until Saturday. The main draw for the tournament took place on Thursday.

Information from Reuters contributed to this report.

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