Melbourne: Tempers flared at the Australian Open qualifying on Wednesday as players battled through another day of smoky air and two of the game’s all-time greats were labelled “selfish” for not protesting about the conditions.
Qualifying was disrupted for a second successive day, firstly by bushfire smoke and later by a torrential rainstorm which cleared the air but put an end to play at Melbourne Park.
Tournament organisers have been under fire for ploughing ahead with the qualifiers after an initial delay on Tuesday, with players complaining of breathing difficulties and one forced to retire from a match after suffering a coughing fit.
The ill will spilt over into Wednesday, with Canadian world No. 103 Brayden Schnur taking aim at 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal for not taking a vocal stand for the lower-profile players in qualifying.
“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 said after winning his qualifier against Austrian Sebastian Ofner.
“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 said he felt “super dryness” in his throat and that conditions were “100 per cent not normal”.
“They’re just trying to shove us on the court because we’re qualifiers.”
Tennis Australia said it would continue to monitor on-site data and consult their medical team, the local bureau of meteorology and government scientists to determine whether conditions were fit for play.