Australian Open qualifying begins despite poor air quality

A general view is seen with the city skyline shrouded by smoke haze from bushfires during an Australian Open practice session at Melbourne Park on Jan 14. — AAP via Reuters

A general view is seen with the city skyline shrouded by smoke haze from bushfires during an Australian Open practice session at Melbourne Park on Jan 14. — AAP via Reuters

Fans took to Twitter when Dalila Jakupovic, who had won the first set and was nearing a tiebreak in the second, appeared to collapse at the back of the court in her match against Stefanie Vogel.

Australia's devastating bushfire season is far from over despite cooler weather this week, Victorian state officials warned on Tuesday as Melbourne was blanketed by hazardous smoke.

Organisers of the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne are also keeping an eye on conditions but expect play to start at the scheduled time of 1pm with the air expected to become clearer.

Russian Sharapova's match with Germany's Laura Siegemund was called off with Siegemend leading 7-6, 5-5 after both players complained to the chair umpire.

The umpire said the conditions were behind the call to stop play after nearly two and a half hours.

"We played over two hours and I actually started feeling a little bit of a cough coming out towards the end of the second set", Sharapova said.

The pollution nonetheless prompted Racing Victoria (RV), the state's governing body for thoroughbred racing, to scrap a race meeting at Werribee in Melbourne's western suburbs, and for outdoor construction workers to down tools for the day.

It's an obvious concern with the world's eyes set to be glued on Melbourne during the two-week championship from Monday when thousands of global and Australian tennis fans will also throng to the precinct.

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Australian Open tournament director, Craig Tiley, said last week that he was hopeful the tournament would go ahead but said air quality would be closely monitored.

TA says it will work with their medical team, the Bureau of Meterology and Environment Protection Authority Victoria scientists when making decisions about whether it's healthy to play.

"This is a new experience for all of us", he said.

"We have now real-time raw data that we can collect - we have installed measuring devices on-site for air quality".

Tennis Australia's chief operating officer Tom Larner said they would be treating any smoke stoppages in the same way as an extreme heat or rain delay.

The central business district, close to where Melbourne Park is located, recorded overnight hazardous levels of fine particles in the air and the EPA categorised the air quality as "very poor".

Advice from the EPA for Melburnians is to stay indoors, keep windows and doors shut, and leave pets inside.

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