15 January 2020

Australian Open qualifying delayed due to 'very poor' and 'unhealthy' air quality as bushfires continue to damage playing conditions

Australian Open qualifying was delayed by three hours because of 'very poor' and 'unhealthy' air quality in Melbourne caused by the country's raging bushfires.

Play was supposed to start at 10am local time on Wednesday, but action did not get underway until 1pm.

And matches were then halted once again later in the day due to heavy rain as qualification threatens to hamper those who reach the main draw.

Just 24 hours earlier, Slovenian player Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire from her match after suffering a coughing fit brought on by the treacherous conditions.

Harriet Dart was the only British player to win her qualifying match on Tuesday and she spoke about the difference in conditions in Melbourne.

Speaking to the BBC she said: "It was a little bit different, especially with the visual appearance of everything.

"I didn't go outside too much until my match. I think I was quite lucky to be playing later as the conditions definitely improved as the day went on."

The Australian Open first round proper kicks off on Monday, January 20 as Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic look to defend their singles titles.

Meanwhile, organisers of the event have insisted they will be 'monitoring the conditions constantly' in a bid to protect the health and safety of the players.

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