'Shocked': Australian Open under fire over controversial smoke call

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Australian Open officials have come under fire after allowing qualifying to continue in Melbourne’s horrendous bushfire smoke.

Organisers were forced to delay the start of the qualifying tournament and suspend practice after hazardous smoke from Victoria's bushfires blanketed Melbourne Park.

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However qualifying for next week's grand slam eventually got underway at 11am.

The EPA rated Melbourne's air quality as hazardous early on Tuesday morning but that has been downgraded to very poor.

A spectator is seen wearing a face mask during Australian Open qualifying. Image: AAP

Advice from the EPA for Melburnians is to stay indoors, keep windows and doors shut, and leave pets inside.

"Conditions onsite are improving and are being constantly monitored," a Tennis Australia statement read.

"Further decisions will be made using onsite data and in consultation with our medical team, the Bureau of Meterology and scientists from the EPA.

"As always the health and safety of our players, our staff and our fans is our priority."

An Australian Open flag is seen with the city shrouded in smoke. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

While officials were confident the air quality was improving, a number of players and commentators were baffled that play was allowed at all.

Luxembourg player Mandy Minella said she was ‘shocked’, and she wasn’t alone.

Kooyong Classic facing similar dilemma

Organisers of the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne are also keeping an eye on conditions but expect play to start at the scheduled time of 1pm with the air expected to become clearer.

"The health and safety of the players, spectators and all in involved in the Kooyong Classic event is paramount," tournament director Peter Johnston said.

Twenty-two Australians are taking part in Open qualifying, including former world No.17 Bernard Tomic.

The world No.182 is drawn to play American Denis Kudla on Tuesday.

Tomic recorded just seven wins at ATP level in 2019 - none at the slams - and hasn't played a tournament since a first-round loss to Dan Evans in Stockholm in October.

with AAP