Brycia James/iStock(MELBOURNE, Australia) — A professional tennis player competing in an Australian Open qualifying match in Melbourne was forced to retire after she suffered a coughing fit from thick smoke caused by the catastrophic bushfires.

Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia fell to her knees Tuesday when she was about to serve during the Round 1 Open qualifying match.

“I was really scared that I would collapse,” Jakupovic told ESPN. “That’s why I went onto the floor, because I couldn’t walk anymore.”

Jakupovic, currently ranked 180th in the world, was leading against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele when she had to retire.



The logistics of the tournament became a cause of concern as bushfires continue to rage on in Australia, including in the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located.

This season’s fires, which began about four months earlier than normal, have been especially devastating for the country. Over 15 million acres have burned, at least 25 people have died and an ecologist at The University of Sydney estimates that more than one billion animals have perished.

Jakupovic has now joined a chorus of players speaking out against playing in the conditions.

“It’s not healthy for us,” Jakupovic told ESPN. “I was surprised. I thought we would not be playing today, but we don’t have much choice.”

Elina Svitolina, a Ukranian tennis player, tweeted, “Why do we need to wait for something bad to happen to do an action [sic].”

Her tweet included a photo of the AQI (air quality index) at 200 Tuesday afternoon local time, well above the 0 to 50 standards for a good AQI and considered very unhealthy.