MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — Stefanos Tsitsipas said he was left coughing and had trouble breathing even after practicing indoors at the Australian Open, where the buildup has been dominated by fears about toxic smoke from bushfires.
The Greek world number six, a major contender for the first Grand Slam of the year, said that he had been excited about coming to Melbourne — until he saw “smoke over the city” as his plane came in to land.
“I was like, ‘What is this?’” said the 21-year-old netter, who stunned Roger Federer last year en route to the Australian Open semifinals.
“First two days here were pretty unusual. I went to practice for around one, one-and-a-half hours.”
“After I practiced indoors I felt really bad with my lungs.”
Tsitsipas, who capped a breakthrough 2019 by winning the season-ending ATP Finals, added: “I’m feeling okay now, but I was a bit concerned.”
“I was coughing a lot had troubles breathing for a couple of hours.”
Air quality in Melbourne was among the worst on the planet on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Australian Open organizers were strongly criticised for pushing ahead with qualifying matches.
On Saturday, two days before the main draw begins, air quality in the city was rated ‘moderate.’
Rain is forecast on Monday, which should help clear the air, and Tsitsipas hopes there will be no repeat of the discomfort he felt.