Canada's Denis Shapovalov is concerned for his health if the bushfire smoke haze hits Melbourne during the Australian Open. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP
Canada's Denis Shapovalov is concerned for his health if the bushfire smoke haze hits Melbourne during the Australian Open. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP

World No.13 threatens to pull out of Open over smoke haze

WHILE Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal expect the show to go on safely, world No.13 Denis Shapovalov says he will refuse to play at the Australian Open if forced to compete in poor air.

The Canadian also expects other leading players at the Grand Slam tournament will do the same if their health is at risk.

Organisers have been criticised by players and the media for ploughing ahead with qualifying this week despite authorities warning residents to stay indoors and restrict physical activity as air quality plunged due to bushfire smoke.

Canadian Shapovalov, who plays Marton Fucsovics in the first round on Monday, said he would have little hesitation defaulting if scheduled to play in the conditions that plagued qualifying on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I wouldn't play. I'm 20 years old, it's a grand slam, it's a big opportunity but I'm 20 years old," he told reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday.

"I don't want to risk my life, risk my health being out there playing in this condition when I can (play) for the next 10-15 years.

"I think everyone's kind of on the same page in terms of how it is. I don't think anyone's happy with the way things are being dealt with.

"I'm sure the top guys aren't going to want to come out in this condition either.

"I'm sure Rafa (Nadal) and Roger (Federer) and Novak (Djokovic) are not going to want to play when it's bad for their health as well."

Open director Craig Tiley released its air quality policy on Saturday and both Federer and Nadal - who were accused during the week of being "selfish" by not trying to stop qualifying on Tuesday - endorsed it.

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.

"I don't have concerns," Nadal said, echoing Federer's sentiments that stopping play when the poor air quality reading reached 200 was good enough for him.

"The only thing I can do is go to the tournament director office, ask what's going on, because I have been practising that days, too.

"I received an answer that convince me. They told me that they have the right specialists here analysing and monitorising (sic) every four minutes the air.

"Over 200, we don't play. Under 200 we normally play. What I receive on the answer is on the 'Olympic rule' is until 300 you can keep competing.

"So when I receive an answer like this, when I receive an answer that the most important committee in the world of sport, like the Olympic Committee, allowed the people to compete until 300, and we are going until 200.

"I really cannot believe that the most important committee in the world wants bad health for the competitors so that answer convince me.

"I am here to play."

News Corp Australia


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