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Australian Open player collapses in bushfire smoke coughing fit

Dalila Jakupovic was winning her qualifier match against Stefanie Voegele before being forced to retire Tuesday at the Australian Open in Melbourne. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Dalila Jakupovic was winning her qualifier match against Stefanie Voegele before being forced to retire Tuesday at the Australian Open in Melbourne. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire from her qualifying match at the 2020 Australian Open after having a coughing fit due to brushfire smoke and poor air quality in the Melbourne area.

Jakupovic retired in the second set of her match against Stefanie Voegele on Tuesday. She won the first set 6-4, before leaving the match while trailing her Swiss foe 6-5.

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Jakupovic walked off the court at the start of her coughing fit, before bending over and falling to her knees. Australian Open medical team members helped her get to her feet and escorted her out of the stadium.

"On the warmup at 9 a.m., I was having chest pain," Jakupovic told reporters. "In the match, after 25 minutes or so, I was getting difficulty, like an asthma attack, which I don't have.

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"So I called the physio[therapist] on the court and I was getting better. After some time, the end of the second set, the physio came again, I thought I would be better. The points were getting bigger, and I couldn't breathe out on the court. I couldn't stand up."

The Australian bushfires have killed more than 20 people, burned about 24 million acres and caused poor air quality throughout the country.

Tournament officials suspended play Tuesday morning due to poor air quality, but said conditions were improving. Further decisions regarding play will be made by the Australian Open medical team, the Bureau of Meteorology and scientists from EPA Victoria.

EPA Victoria said air quality was expected to be hazardous in Melbourne on Tuesday and Wednesday before improving to moderate Thursday and Friday.

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"As always, the health and safety of our players, our staff and our fans is our priority," the Australian Open said in a statement.

Jakupovic, 28, is ranked No. 180 in the Women's Tennis Association world rankings. She has never advanced past the round of 128 at a Grand Slam. The Slovenian posted several photos and videos to her Instagram story before her match against Voegele, showing the smoky sky around Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.

Voegele wrote "get better" on an Instagram post Tuesday, including a photo of Jakupovic during her coughing fit.

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Several tennis stars have complained about the air quality, leading into the main matches at the Australian Open. Australian men's player Bernard Tomic complained of getting tired easily and breathing difficulty. Canadian women's player Eugenie Bouchard took a medical timeout during her qualifying match.

Former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova's match against Germany's Laura Siegmund was called off during the Kooyong Classic on Tuesday in Melbourne, due to poor air quality. Sharapova and Siegmund complained to the chair umpire before the match was abandoned.

Elina Svitolina -- the No. 5 player in the world -- tweeted for the tournament to take action Tuesday.

"Why do we need to wait for something bad to happen to do an action," Svitolina wrote.

Former men's player Gilles Simon criticized Australian Open organizers.

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"When we find doctors who say that playing at 45 degrees is not dangerous at the [Australian Open] and referees who say that the wet grass is not slippery at Wimbledon, we must be able to find an expert who certifies that the air quality is sufficient, right," Simon tweeted.

The Australian Open ends Feb. 2.

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