Roger Federer answers questions on Saturday during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne.  Picture: Andy Wong/AP
Roger Federer answers questions on Saturday during a press conference ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Picture: Andy Wong/AP

Federer speaks up on Australian Open smoke policy

ROGER Federer has backed the Australian Open's new air quality policy after organisers copped international criticism for allowing qualifiers to play under a blanket of thick smoke haze.

Smoke from bushfires burning in Victoria's east caused hazardous air quality and visibility to plummet across Melbourne during the opening days of qualifying for the season-opening grand slam.

Organisers were subsequently lashed after they appeared unprepared for the conditions, initially allowing play to go ahead at Melbourne Park and leaving several players adversely affected.

Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic had to quit her qualifying match after a coughing fit, and Australia's Bernard Tomic also sought medical treatment after complaining that he could not breathe.

Canadian Brayden Schnur and Brit Liam Broady led the charge of disgruntled players.

Schnur branded superstars Federer and Rafael Nadal "selfish" for not speaking out on behalf of all players, while Broady launched a Twitter broadside that labelled communication from organisers "a slap in the face".

Tournament director Craig Tiley defended the handling of the issue on Thursday, but admitted effectively communicating their approach on air quality to players had been tricky.

Austraian Open boss Craig Tiley has come under criticism.
Austraian Open boss Craig Tiley has come under criticism.

He conceded that the confusion over the issue, with several players approaching him with various air quality applications to demonstrate how bad conditions were, had raised tensions.

Tiley promised greater transparency and followed up with the release of the air quality policy that will be used throughout the Open.

The policy is based on the concentration levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, in the air as determined by real-time monitoring sites around Melbourne Park.

There are five levels of air quality under the policy depending on how much PM2.5 is present.

Australian Open qualifying at Melbourne Park was hit hard by a smoke haze.
Australian Open qualifying at Melbourne Park was hit hard by a smoke haze.

Conditions are closely monitored at Air Quality Rating 4 and play may be suspended when there are between 97 and 200 PM2.5 units present. If the threshold of 200 units is passed, Air Quality Rating 5, then play is suspended.

"From what we were told in the player meeting, the Olympic Games and other competitions have the numbers set at 300," Federer told reporters on Saturday.

"Ours is set at 200.

"From that standpoint, I think we're moving in a very safe range. We're not here for six months straight at over 200, 300, you know.

"That's when maybe effects really become bad.

"I don't worry too much, to be honest. I worry more for everybody else who is in the fire, in the smoke.

"Also we can stay indoors all day, quickly go out and play, go back in again. "It's not like we're stuck outside at all times."

News Corp Australia


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