Smoke from bushfires covers Melbourne on January 15th. (Robert Cianflone / Getty)
Earlier this week, Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic canceled her qualifying game at the Australian Open tennis tournament due to the massive forest fires in Australia.
Jakupovic led 6: 4, 5: 6 against Stefanie Voegele from Switzerland and was overtaken by such a violent coughing fit that she fell on her knees. Jakupovic was unable to continue due to breathing difficulties and lost the match.
“I was really afraid that I would collapse. So I went to the ground because I couldn’t walk anymore, ”she said afterwards. “I have no asthma and have never had breathing problems.”
Jakupovic is unlikely to be the only player affected by the bad air and smoke particles, as according to the BBC, some of the quality levels found during the games correspond to smoking a large number of cigarettes a day.
While that’s bad enough for spectators, the effect can be worse for tennis players due to the effort they put into the court.
“If the air that gets into your lungs is contaminated with other particles from the bushfire, it can significantly affect the ability of the small sacks in our lungs, called alveoli, to carry the important oxygen to the bloodstream,” explains sports and exercise science professor John Brewer. “For tennis players, this can lead to additional fatigue, possibly loss of concentration, headache and nausea, and a slowdown in the recovery rate.”
The Australian Open is scheduled to begin next week. However, defending champion Novak Djokovic has already suggested considering delaying the tournament.
“You have to take it into account due to extreme weather conditions or conditions,” he said on Saturday. “This is probably the very last option. (But) when it comes down to … compromising the health of the players, you have to take that into account.”
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