Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire from a qualifying match during the Australian Open owing to a coughing fit induced by the smoke in the air from the bushfires in Australia. The fires raging across the country since September 2019 have deposited a thick layer of smog over the region. On Tuesday, January 14, the air quality in parts of Melbourne reached hazardous levels, and people were urged to stay indoors.

During her match against Swiss player Stefanie Vogele, 28-year-old Jakupovi fell to her knees in distress, overcome by coughing. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that she would be unable to continue, as she was escorted off the court.

“I was really scared that I would collapse,’ said Jakupovic. “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.”

“It’s not healthy for us,” she added. “I was surprised, I thought we would not be playing today but we don’t have much choice.”

Former World Number one, Maria Sharapova, also had her game called off owing to weather conditions. “Both players are feeling the smoke so we are going to stop the match,” the umpire had announced of the match between Sharapova, and German player Laura Siegemund.

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