In Melbourne, the silence of the best players in the world is as heavy as the ambient air of the past few days. If this Thursday, the qualifications of the Australian Open proceeded in good conditions, after the rain of the night, far from the toxic smoke which upset the first two days, the silence of the stars of the circuit was always good present.
Not concerned by the preliminary table, the headliners have been training since the start of the week away from fine particles and heat on the indoor courts, when the qualifications take place outdoors. “They are on the big courts with the roof closed so they don’t give a damn about the pollution,” deplores the French Elliot Benchetrit, 229th player in the world. They stay under the air conditioning while waiting for it to pass. ”
Four days before the start of the main tournament, the draw of which did not spare the French, no big name in tennis has publicly commented on the circumstances in which the qualifications are currently held.
Meeting between players this Friday
Less influential, players already engaged unite on social networks to voice their anger. “The more I think about the conditions in which we played a few days ago, the more I get angry,” reacted the Englishman Liam Broady on Twitter, supported by the German Dustin Brown, who claims to have “used a spray against the ‘asthma to breathe better for the first time in 35 years’.
“Major players, as long as they are not in the running, are less concerned by what is going on,” explains Marion Bartoli, former 7th world player and present in Melbourne as coach of Jelena Ostapenko (45th at the WTA) . “If the players unanimously have no desire to play, they must come together to force the organizers to act,” added the 2013 Wimbledon winner.
A meeting between the main players will take place this Friday to take stock of the situation and try to ease tensions. President of the players’ council, Novak Djokovic will notably be present.
“The tournament will take place no matter what”
Also highly criticized, tournament director Craig Tiley said on Thursday that he had not informed the players of the air quality so as not to make the situation more confused than it already was. “We understand the anger, but it comes largely from the confusion and the complexity of the events,” he said, adding that “the medical team was satisfied with the conditions under which the players have played so far.” “.
Explanations which seem hardly receivable when the local authorities advised this Tuesday January 14 and this Wednesday January 15, the inhabitants of Melbourne not to practice physical activities and to stay at home. The first day of qualifying was notably marked by the abandonment of the Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic, unable to breathe.
While Craig Tiley assures that “the tournament will take place whatever happens”, will the indifference of the stars of the circuit be the same if one of theirs has to give up?