Dalila Jakupović, like so many tennis players beyond the absolute world class, has a shadowy existence in public. That could be changed: The Slovenian (world ranking 180) wanted to take part in the first of the four major Grand Slam tournaments of the year, the Australian Open in Melbourne, fighting through tough qualifications. If it reaches the first main round, which is due to start next Monday, it has already received almost 56,000 euros. Money essential for Jakupović's career.
But instead of raving about one of her aces or her backhand, the 28-year-old Jakupović became sadly famous: Heavily marked by breathing problems and coughing attacks, Jakupović collapsed on the court against the Swiss Stefanie Vögele 6: 4, 5: 6. She could only leave the square upright thanks to help.
Jakupović's breakdown is the organizer's opaque and reckless crisis management Tennis Australia owed. Also in Melbourne the effects of the devastating bush fire can be clearly felt. There is also a huge smoke bell over Melbourne. In Melbourne, too, the authorities are calling on residents to stay inside because of the miserable air quality. And should professional tennis be played here?
They have been raging for several months fires, which are actually not unusual, but are as violent as never before. Of course, they too are consequences of climate change, in which athletes, coaches and rapporteurs are involved in the system. In the coming years it will be one of the biggest issues for competitive sports to deal with it responsibly. The Australian Open is just another example of this.
The air values are catastrophic
In the meantime, the fires have expanded into a national disaster with 27 deaths so far. The authorities do not expect lasting relief until spring. Around 150 fires are burning in the states of New South Wales and Victoria alone (which also includes Melbourne). The fires are several hundred kilometers away from Melbourne. But because the wind changed significantly last weekend, a plume of smoke settled over the east coast city. The smoke was not only clearly visible and noticeable on the night of and on Tuesday. It is also detectable and unhealthy.
Air pollution is measured using a real-time air quality index (LQI). A value up to 70 is considered normal and healthy. In Melbourne the value in the meantime estimated over 400 at night; during the qualification competitions on Monday, this lasted over 200. The peak particulate matter level was 393 micrograms. The Sport Information Service (SID) compared this figure to one of the most heavily used traffic points in Germany, the Stuttgart measuring point on the Neckartor. Highest load there: 37 micrograms. Less than a tenth of the loads in Australia, Even on New Year's Eve, the value in Stuttgart was less than half.
What does the organizer do?
Experts classify this as dangerous and unhealthy. The city of Melbourne consequently instructed the citizens to keep windows and doors closed, to keep animals inside and to refrain from outdoor activities. All of this did not come suddenly for those responsible for the Australian Open, the country's largest sporting event. The air quality has been anything but good in the past few days.
Due to some inquiries, tournament director Craig Tiley, who has developed the Open into a money printing machine in recent years (turnover in 2019: around 232 million euros), published a far-sighted and cautious statement. That you have taken on the subject. That you work with experts and invest in education for everyone. And that in extreme cases, in addition to the three covered stadiums, there would also be eight playable indoor courts nearby. In addition, the association donates money for the victims of the fires for each ace. Many players joined the media.
But when things got serious on Tuesday, Tiley and his team did not look good. They initially postponed the training. The qualification started – to the surprise of many – with an hour late. Despite the warning from the city, despite the values, despite the noticeably poorer air.
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