Australian Open qualifying begins, poor air quality from bushfires brings abandoned matches

At Melbourne Park, Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic was leading her first-round Australian Open qualifying match against Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele when she dropped to her knees with a coughing spell and was forced to pull out of the match. (Screenshot: ESPN Australia/NZ)
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Updated 14 January 2020

Australian Open qualifying begins, poor air quality from bushfires brings abandoned matches

  • Organizers said further decisions on match scheduling would be made
  • Melbourne started the day with hazardous air pollution levels

MELBOURNE: Smoke haze and poor air quality caused by wildfires temporarily suspended practice sessions for the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, but qualifying began later in the morning in “very poor” conditions and amid complaints by at least one player who was forced to forfeit her match.
At the Kooyong Classic exhibition in Melbourne, former No. 1-ranked Maria Sharapova struggled in the heat and smoke and her match against Laura Siegemund was called off late in the second set. Siegemund won the first set in a tiebreaker but players and officials decided to stop play at 5-5 in the second.
"Both players are feeling the smoke so we are going to stop the match at this point," the umpire said.
At Melbourne Park, Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic was leading her first-round Australian Open qualifying match against Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele when she dropped to her knees with a coughing spell. Ranked 180th, Jakupovic was a set up and one point away from a tiebreaker in the second set when she experienced breathing difficulties and retired from the match.

“I was really scared that I would collapse," Jakupovic told Australian Associated Press. "I don't have asthma and never had breathing problems. I actually like heat. The physio came again and I thought it would be better. But the points were a bit longer and I just couldn't breathe anymore and I just fell on the floor."
Jakupovic said it was "not fair" that officials asked players to take the court in those conditions.
“It's not healthy for us. I was surprised, I thought we would not be playing today but we don't have much choice."

Former Wimbledon semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard needed some medical assistance during her first qualifying match before beating You Xiaodi 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1.
Organizers said further decisions on match scheduling would be made using onsite data and in close consultation with its medical team, the Bureau of Meteorology, and scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency in Victoria state.
Melbourne started the day with hazardous air pollution as smoke from wildfires in Victoria's east and in southern New South Wales state drifted through.
The central business district, close to where Melbourne Park is located, recorded overnight hazardous levels of fine particles in the air and the EPA categorized the air quality as “very poor."
Firefighters in the region spent the night being called out to fire alarms triggered by the smoke haze.

 


Amaala lift champion trophy in Saudi Arabia’s first-ever desert polo tournament

Updated 19 January 2020

Amaala lift champion trophy in Saudi Arabia’s first-ever desert polo tournament

  • Amaala earned the bragging rights as the 2020, and inaugural, AlUla Desert Polo champions

JEDDAH: Renowned Argentine polo player Nacho Figueras scored all his side’s goals as Amaala hammered out an emphatic 7-3 victory over host team AlUla to win the Kingdom’s first-ever desert polo tournament on Saturday at AlUla UNESCO heritage site.

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki bin Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority, presented the trophy to Amaala after the final.

The event forms part of Winter at Tantora festival, featuring international polo players, who had the experience of playing on compacted desert sand instead of grass amid the stunning surroundings at AlUla.

The Royal Commission of AlUla organized the three-day tournament in cooperation with the newly formed Saudi Polo Federation.

In winning the tournament, Amaala earned the bragging rights as the 2020, and inaugural, AlUla Desert Polo champions.

Players from all over the world took part, including team members from the world famous La Dolfina polo outfit from Argentina, including Adolfo Cambiaso, Pelon Stirling and Pablo Mac Donough.

In the match for third place, Al Nahla Bentley defeated Team Richard Mille 4-2 with Sheikha Alya Maktoum scoring a hat trick of goals.

Figueras said: “It’s an amazing place with an amazing history, an amazing heritage and an amazing first tournament for the Saudi Polo Federation. I’m very honored to be here and I’m delighted that we were able to win.

“This country is going through a transformation and there are amazing years to come.”

Mac Donough added: “For us it was a completely new place; polo-wise Saudi Arabia wasn’t something we were doing before. Having the chance to come to such an amazing country and having the chance to play a tournament and promote the sport, all this makes us feel very proud and we hope we can continue it.”

Saudi Polo Federation chairman, Amr F. Zedan, who played for Team Richard Mille during the tournament, said: “I see this event as a launching pad for the future. We have big plans for polo in Saudi Arabia that include the establishment of development programs and the construction of facilities to assist in building a polo infrastructure in The Kingdom.”

Amr Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission of AlUla, said: “Our tourism strategy for AlUla has been built around certain anchors — heritage, culture, nature and arts. Equestrianism has always been a key industry for us, and the surroundings here make AlUla one of the best locations to ride horses.”