Angry WTA players voice concerns over “Choke Slam”

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Air quality in Melbourne is hazardous because of Australian bushfires and all eyes are on the Australian Open organizers as to how they will handle the very difficult task of protecting the audience and players while at the same time carrying out the season’s first Grand Slam. After players were virtually suffocating during Tuesday’s qualifying, the situation wasn’t better on Wednesday, as practice and matches were delayed due to air quality concerns, while subsequent rain further messed up with the schedule.

A week ago, organizers claimed that action at the Australian Open would be confined to the three stadiums with retractable roofs and eight indoor courts if conditions were to become hazardous, but what we’re having now are qualifiers greatly struggling to complete their matches and comparing the air to cigarette smoke.

Several WTA players expressed frustration on Twitter on Tuesday, the first day of qualifying. I have to notice that, given the seriousness of the situation, not a lot of players have publicly voiced their concerns.

In response to Mandy Minella‘s concern for the health for everyone working at the tournament, Alize Cornet reached out directly to tournament director Craig Tiley.

Danka Kovinic thinks that the tournament doesn’t care about players.

Elina Svitolina is alarming the organizers to prevent damage.

Kirsten Flipkens is worried about long-term consequences on the health of players.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is asking for a solution.

Meanwhile, tournament organizers are failing to publicly acknowledge the problem, avoiding to discuss it with the media. They are mostly behaving as if nothing is happening, focusing on sponsor’s events and the Rally for Relief fundraising exhibition, while journalists from The Age came up with a fitting new name for the tournament, the Choke Slam. Just read these headlines:

ESPN: Australian Open officials tight-lipped as smoke questions linger

The Age: No mention of smoke as Nadal, Tiley take to the stage at Fed Square

BBC: Dalila Jakupovic says every player she spoke to “had problems breathing”


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