A player who collapses in the middle of a match, a ball collector victim of malaise ... Despite air quality deemed "dangerous" by the local authorities, who invite the population to stay at home, the qualifications of the Australian Open began this Tuesday in Melbourne under a vast cloud of smoke, consequence of the fires which ravage the country for several months.
Concerned in the first place, the players had no say. This is the case of Frenchman Constant Lestienne, winner in three sets of Dutchman Van de Zandschulp (6-3, 1-6, 7-5). The 224th world player, 27 years old, hopes for a collective awareness, especially of major players, more influential.
Were you bothered by the air quality during your match?
CONSTANT LESTIENNE. I was so focused in my match that I didn't think about it too much. For the moment, I don't feel anything. We'll see what happens later, but I don't think it's a good thing to play matches under these conditions.
Did the tournament organization keep you informed of developments and the risks involved?
They said nothing to us at all, absolutely nothing. Everyone plays like sheep, we have to. It's a bit ridiculous. For a Grand Slam tournament, they could at least wait a day. They can manage, there is a lot of ground. I find it a shame that we let ourselves go.
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VIDEO. Australian Open player quits because of fire smoke
What can make a difference?
Let the big players speak. We should have gone on strike but hey it's impossible, there are too many players so we have to submit to the system. We do not have a choice. If we do not want to play, we are considered to be forfeited.
Have the conditions changed your program?
I preferred not to warm up, I did not want to put my nose outside. It is a personal choice. They told us: you can go warm up but it is at your own risk . This morning (Tuesday) at 9 am the heating was prohibited as the pollution index was high.