British tennis player Liam Broady has accused Australian Open officials of treating qualifiers worse than animals as calls grow among players to form a union.
Broady lost in the first round of qualifying, playing his match in a blanket of smoke at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, and said he struggled to breathe in the conditions.
Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic had to quit her qualifying match that day after a coughing fit, while Australia's Bernard Tomic also sought medical treatment.
The distressing scenes made worldwide headlines, with UK writer Stuart Fraser labelling the controversy ‘shameful’.
World No.234 Broady took to Twitter on Thursday, saying: "The more I think about the conditions we played in a few days ago the more it boils my blood.
"We can't let this slide. The email we received yesterday from the ATP and AO was a slap in the face, conditions were 'playable'. Were they healthy?
"Citizens of Melbourne were warned to keep their animals indoors the day I played qualifying, and yet were were expected to go outside for high intensity physical competition?
"What do we have to do to create a players union? Where is the protection for players, both male and female?
“When multiple players need asthma spray on court and they don't even have asthma? When a player collapses and has to retire due to respiratory issues?
"On tour we let so many things go that aren't right but at some point we have to make a stand. ALL players need protection, not just a select few."
Exactly. Tennis is an individual sport so players feel like they have no power and worry about their pay cheques, but we are all in this together and need to start to protect each other. We would ALWAYS be stronger together rather than divided. The same as in any walk of life https://t.co/Q8H9R3UMKv— Liam Broady (@Liambroady) January 15, 2020
Broady's tweet was supported by Germany's Dustin Brown, who also needed medical treatment during his first-round loss played on Wednesday.
"‘I have a virus coming on' I was told by the doctor on court," Brown tweeted.
"In 35 years it's the first time I had to use an asthma spray to help me breathe better #wellsaidLiam."
Calls grow for tennis players union
Former world No.25 Canadian Vasek Pospisil said the situation was "absurd" and it was "time for a players union".
French player Alize Cornet, a former world No.11, also agreed: "We have to stick together and stop this nonsense #players union."
French veteran Nicolas Mahut took to Instagram on Wednesday with a cheeky clip for officials, posting a pic wearing a face mask and writing: “Ready for my 1st round.”
Their comments came after qualifying third seed Canadian Brayden Schnur labelled Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal "selfish" for not speaking out on behalf of lesser-known players.
"It's got to come from the top guys - Roger and Rafa are a little bit selfish in thinking about themselves and their careers," Schnur told AAP.
"Because they're near the end and all they're thinking about is their legacy and they're not thinking about the sport itself and trying to do what's good for the sport - so those guys need to step up."
Schnur battled with conditions, which he described as like smoking a cigarette.
"You feel super dryness in your throat," he said.
"That's 100 per cent not normal and players who have asthma are at a huge disadvantage right now."
I pride myself on being one of the fittest players on the circuit I play and my body literally failed me on that day and I wasn’t the only one 25 seconds between points felt like 5 ! Genuinely felt like being on a treadmill #Poor https://t.co/1W8aaDpka4— Jay Alexander Clarke (@Jay27798) January 16, 2020