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Melbourne show kicks off despite concerns about air quality

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The 2020 Australian Open Tennis Championships flags off the tennis calendar as well as a new decade. The year 2019 ended with the Davis Cup competition in which Spain defeated France in the finals. Rafael Nadal reached the semi-finals of the 2019 ATP Tour finals and that was sufficient to secure him top spot in the year- end rankings because Novak Djokovic was defeated in the round-robin stage. However, as the big show takes off in Melbourne, there are justified concerns about the air quality.

A new event was introduced into the Men’s tour with the ATP Nations Cup, featuring the top 24 countries by player’s rankings. In the finals, Djokovic defeated Nadal in the first singles match while Roberto Bautista Agut leveled with a victory over Dusan Lajovic. In the deciding doubles match, Nadal withdrew on account of “low energy” paving the way for Djokovic and Viktor Troicki to defeat Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta for the maiden title. It was a seeming reversal of the 2019 Davis Cup title match. Many players called for a merger of the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup.

Meanwhile, the warm-up tournaments held. Serena Williams won her first title after having baby Alexis as she defeated fellow American Jessica Pegula 6/3; 6/4 to claim the title in Auckland New Zealand. Australia’s world number one, Ashleigh Barty defeated Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, 6/2; 7/5 to win in Adelaide.

In the men’s warm-ups, Russia’s Andrey Rublev repeated his victory in Doha Qatar by defeating Lloyd Harris of South Africa, 6/3; 6/0 to win in Adelaide. France’s Ugo Humbert defeated compatriot Benoit Praire 7/6(2); 3/6; 7/6(5).

The worries of burn-out from warm-up events were eclipsed by anxiety about the hazardous air quality levels caused by the raging bush fires in Australia. While people were advised to stay indoors, the Qualifying Tournament progressed and some players collapsed while others needed inhalers to continue competing. Canada’s Denis Shapovalov declared that if the air quality worsened, he would not risk his life competing.

However, Nadal stated that he was satisfied with the assurance of the organizers that play would not take place if air quality (PM2.5) levels exceeded a reading of 200. Nadal also reminded others that at the Olympics, competition was allowed until the reading reached 300.As the great show takes off today, Nadal is the top seed in the men’s field while Novak Djokovic is seeded second. In the women’s draw, Ashleigh Barty carries the home flag as top seed while Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic is seeded second.

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