The lack of noise from Tennis Australia screams they got this totally wrong.
At the end of November of last year just seven weeks ago they reviewed and re-published their national policy for extreme weather which under airborne contaminants states:
5. Sand, Dust or Smoke (Airborne Contaminants)
Any situation in which the air quality is compromised presents a risk to players, officials and spectators, especially if they have a pre-existing medical condition.
Airborne contaminates can come in many forms, but the most common are sand, dust or smoke.
The relevant Officials and Administrators must ensure the health, safety and well-being of players, officials and spectators as the overriding priority and where the air quality conditions create an unacceptable risk, have the authority under this Policy to suspend play.
If smoke is present it is recommended that the source is determined to ensure that the smoke is not toxic, not likely to worsen or is not due to a fire in the vicinity. If the smoke presents any danger, through reduction in visibility or ability to breathe properly, then play must be suspended or cancelled and all patrons removed to a safe area.
You can read the extreme heat policy here – https://www.tennis.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Extreme-Weather-Policy-Effective-25-November-2019-1.pdf
So, was it followed properly?
On Monday and Tuesday, I’d say no.
If anything it was quite negligent of them.
Data from the Air Quality Index shows that air quality was outside the ‘healthy’ zone on a few occasions.
A couple of readings was high. In fact some in the unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous at times as the scale below shows…
Not only did play continue in very-unhealthy conditions but there was even advice from the EPA Victoria and City of Melbourne about the conditions.
Even the Melbourne Recreation Centre and City Baths were closed due to hazardous air quality.
So, how did tennis continue?
We had players taking medical time outs, some using an inhaler and one player Dalila Japukovic having to retire from her qualifying match due to coughing fits she was having.
I think it’s quite shameful there has been no statement released from Tennis Australia or the ITF about what has happened.
You can read more on the issues at the Australian Open below:
The only reason I can have for continuation of play is the word “improving”. There were times that play was postponed for a couple of hours in the morning as they looked for improvement but if improvement was happening then technically procedure was being followed.
Besides this I do believe that played should have been pulled until there was an acceptable level air quality to compete in what can be an exhausting sport environment.
Players aren’t happy as you would expect by what has happened, especially those who played in qualifying:
Dustin Brown, Liam Broady and Nicole Gibbs just a few of the players who have posted their disgust at the conditions they had to play in without as Nicole said ‘being medically informed’.
This has opened a big can of worms which it looks like Tennis Australia was hoping will blow over. However there are a few factors. One of which is Tennis is played in Shanghai and Beijing where air quality is poor year on year outside the 150 mark but players aren’t medically informed.
Are we getting close to a potential players union? Who is protecting the players. The tournaments of course will naturally say that they are focused on making sure players are safe but who from the players perspective only is there?
I wouldn’t be surprised before too long if there is a players union created. With the amount of travelling, weather conditions and expectancy to perform all over the world there should be something so they can speak as one and make informed decisions on playing/travelling situations for themselves without potentially facing losing their place in competition.
Tennis coach Sven Groeneveld summed it up perfectly on social media saying the game needs – Transparency, Clear Guidelines and Representation.