The 2020 Australian Open has begun its qualifying matches in anticipation of the Grand Slam tournament officially getting underway on Jan. 20 in Melbourne. During one of those qualifying matches, Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic was forced to withdraw from her match due to poor air quality, which is stemming from the Australian wildfires that have ravaged the country over the last several weeks.
"I was really scared that I would collapse," Jakupovic told The Associated Press. "I never had breathing problems. I actually like heat. But … I just couldn't breathe anymore and I just fell on the floor."
Jakupovic took the first set of of her matchup against Stefanie Vogele, but collapsed during the second set and wasn't able to continue.
Throughout Australian Open qualifying, the Victoria Environmental Protection Authority in Australia classified Melbourne's air quality is "hazardous," and informed the general public that it was in their best interests to stay indoors.
Despite the less-than-stellar conditions, Australian Open organizers are planning to play the tournament as-scheduled. The three main courts used in the tournament at Melbourne Park have retractable roofs, and eight others are indoors.
"This is a new experience for all of us in how we manage air quality, so we have to listen to the experts," Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told The Associated Press.
The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam on the tennis calendar, and this year, player safety appears to be the biggest concern.