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15 Jan, 2020 13:16

'Roger and Rafa are selfish': Canadian ace rips into Federer and Nadal as Australian Open bushfires row rages on

'Roger and Rafa are selfish': Canadian ace rips into Federer and Nadal as Australian Open bushfires row rages on

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been accused of not doing more to help fellow tennis players struggling in the smoke during qualifying for the Australian Open.

The Grand Slam in Melbourne has been hit by smoke from the bushfires raging across Australia, with complaints over the air quality that players are competing in.

On Tuesday, Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic was forced to quit midway through her qualifying match after suffering a coughing fit on court, blaming it on the “unhealthy” conditions.

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At an exhibition event on Wednesday to raise money for a bushfire appeal, Federer and Nadal jointly agreed to donate A$250,000 (US$172,000), prompting much fanfare from the press.  

But elsewhere, Canadian qualifier Brayden Schnur says the pair have not done enough to help lower-ranked players suffering in the conditions.

“It’s got to come from the top guys,” world No. 103 Schnur told the Australian Associated Press, after complaining of “super dryness” during his victory over Austria’s Sebastian Ofner.


“Roger and Rafa are a little bit selfish in thinking about themselves and their careers. Because they’re near the end and all they’re thinking about is their legacy, they’re not thinking about the sport itself and trying to do what’s good for the sport.

“They’re just trying to shove us on the court because we’re qualifiers,” he added.

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That criticism was echoed by US player Noah Rubin, who claimed qualifiers were being asked to play in conditions that would never be deemed suitable for the likes of Federer or Serbian great Novak Djokovic.   

"If this was Federer or Djokovic playing in the finals, would we have done things differently? That's always the question, and you'd have to think they would not be playing in these conditions," the world no. 250 said.

"We don't have too many chances to make this kind of money and move up in the rankings. Hypothetically speaking, if we lose in the first round, this is easily the most money we'll make at any tournament, so to say that you're going to pull out or not play is a very tough ask.


“People say 'just pull out' but this is my livelihood, this is my life and my profession.

“We can complain about it, but we're not going to pull out - I don't have the luxury of pulling out of a tournament like this. I'm a professional, but the fact that there's ballboys and other people out there is kind of ridiculous.

“I'm going to play the match tomorrow unless doctors say 'do not play,' but it's sad that the Australian Open is forcing players to make this decision." 

There was some respite on Wednesday as qualifying was initially delayed due to “unhealthy” air quality, before it was cancelled for the day when heavy rain arrived.

But with the conditions likely to be unpredictable for the remainder of qualifying and the main event when it gets underway on January 20, organizers will face a tricky task of ensuring players’ health is not jeopardized simply for the sake of keeping the tournament on schedule.