Australian Open practice suspended due to poor air quality

Tennis Australia faced fierce criticism after a player retired with breathing difficulties in the opening round of qualifying matches for the Australian Open.

Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic was leading her round one Open qualifying match against Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele when she collapsed to her knees with a coughing fit on Tuesday afternoon.

The City of Melbourne issued warnings to its citizens and their pets to stay inside wherever possible.

At the Kooyong Classic, in the Melbourne suburbs, players and officials made a decision to stop play between Maria Sharapova and Laura Siegemund at 5-5 in the second set due to the smoke.

Taking on German Laura Siegemund in the Australian Open warm-up tournament, the players and officials chose to stop play at 5-5 in the second set.

"Both players are feeling the smoke so we are going to stop the match at this point", the umpire announced.

Melbourne started the day with hazardous air pollution as smoke from wildfires in Victoria's east and in southern New South Wales state drifted through. Thousands of worldwide visitors and Australian tennis fans will also throng to the area. TA said it will work with its medical team, the Bureau of Meteorology, and Environment Protection Authority Victoria scientists when making decisions about whether it's healthy to play.

Up-to-date information can be found on the EPA's AirWatch website, which gives overall air-quality ratings, as well as the current PM2.5 level, referring to the concentration of pollutants with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (about three per cent of a human hair) in the air.

Australian Open tournament director, Craig Tiley, said last week that he was hopeful the tournament would go ahead but said air quality would be closely monitored.

The bushfires have affected a number of elite sporting competitions involving soccer, rugby league and cricket, and poor air conditions have raised fears for players' health at tennis's first Grand Slam.

Ordinary paper dust-masks, handkerchiefs and bandanas won't filter out fine particles or smoke.