Top scientist says the Australian Open should be MOVED to avoid extreme heat and bushfire smoke
- CSIRO scientist David Karoly says Australian Open should be in cooler months
- Karoly says players will have to ‘adapt’ to the extreme heat during competition
- Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire qualifying match on Tuesday due to smoke
- Denis Shapovalov said he will refuse playing if the smoke poses a health risk
The Australian Open should be moved to another time of year so players can escape the extreme heat, a senior scientist has recommended.
On the day the tournament begins, Professor David Karoly has called for the event to be pushed back to the cooler months in future years.
It comes after players were forced to retire in qualifying rounds due to thick smoke from the bushfires.
The event came under fire with some of the sport’s top stars saying they would refuse to play unless the smoke dissipated.
Spanish tennis star, Rafael Nadal is seen wiping his face during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open
‘They will have to adapt to the increases in extreme temperature days,’ Professor Karoly, from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, told The Age.
‘You have to think of the health of the players. Spectators are (also) often cooking in their seats.’
Craig Tiley, the Australian Open tournament director, said there was debate about moving the event to March.
‘But given our tremendous growth, the incredible quality of play from the athletes and the absence of a compelling reason for a move, it is fair to say it has not seriously been contemplated in recent years,’ Mr Tiley said.
Mr Tiley was forced to defend the tournament’s decision to allow play during qualifying matches on Tuesday after the court was smothered in thick smoke.
Novak Djokovic takes a water break during a practice session before the tournament kicks off on Monday
Maria Sharapova cools down while practising ahead of the tournament as scientists say the event should be moved to cooler months
Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupovic collapsed on her knees during her qualifying match on Tuesday after suffering a coughing fit brought on by the thick haze.
She was forced to retire before the end of the second set.
This prompted Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov to say he will refuse to play in the tournament if the smoke persists.
While Shapovalov declared the Grand Slam to be a ‘big opportunity’, the world no. 13 said he ‘wouldn’t play’ amid the hazy conditions.
‘Obviously, it’s a Grand Slam, it’s a big opportunity, but I’m 20 years old,’ he said.
‘I don’t want to risk my life, risk my health, being out there playing in these conditions when I can for the next 10, 15 years.’
Speaking to Jakupovic’s collapse, the Canadian said organisers should have learnt something needed to be changed.
Slovenian player Dalila Jakupovic collapsed on the court mid-match on Tuesday after suffering a coughing fit
Former world No.1 Maria Sharapova’s (pictured on Tuesday) Kooyong Classic match was called off late in the second set as she struggled in the heat and smokey conditions
‘You get warnings from the news telling people to stay inside, that it’s not good for your health to be outside, to be breathing this stuff, and then you get an email from the tournament saying that it’s playable and you guys have to go out there and put your life in jeopardy, put your health in jeopardy.
‘You see the effects on players it has right now, the last couple of days, but you don’t know what it’s going to do later in our lives and how it could affect us if we’re breathing this air in for two weeks.’
Tournament director Craig Tiley defended the handling of the smoke issue on Thursday, but admitted effectively communicating their approach on air quality to players had been tricky.
Tiley promised greater transparency and followed up with the release of the air quality policy that will be used throughout the Open.
Smoke from bushfires in Victoria fills the sky over Melbourne city on Tuesday
World number three, Roger Federer, weighed in on the issue saying he wasn’t worried.
‘I don’t worry too much, to be honest. I worry more for everybody else who is in the fire, in the smoke.
‘Also we can stay indoors all day, quickly go out and play, go back in again.
‘It’s not like we’re stuck outside at all times.
‘I think we’re going to get through it and it should be fine. It shouldn’t move, no.’
The first week of the Australian Open is expected to be cooler than other years with Wednesday reaching the hottest temperature with a maximum of 30C.
But there are fears temperatures will escalate after 2019 measured to be Australia’s hottest year on record with Victoria sweating through its warmest January ever.
Stan Wawrinka, from Switzerland is seen at a practice session at Melbourne Park
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