SHOWS: MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA (JANUARY 19, 2020) (TENNIS AUSTRALIA - FOR NEWS PURPOSES ONLY.
NO RESALES) 1.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) NOVAK DJOKOVIC, AUSTRALIAN OPEN DEFENDING CHAMPION, SAYING: "To be honest, I was a little bit concerned you know, those several days that you mentioned.
I think Melbourne was at the time the most polluted city in the world that day and it was sad to see some players collapsing and ball kids collapsing on the court but I had faith in Melbourne - four season city as they call it - that changes the weather very quickly and there was a lot of rain one night and wind as well which cleared up the sky.
So, the last three days has been really good, fresh air, you know it's like nothing happened.
So whether that's going to stay or not we don't know because the fires are still ongoing.
So you know we hope, not you know for the sake of I guess well-being and health of all the players but also you know this tournament that obviously you know would have lots of troubles if they have to cancel matches.
Luckily they have three closed you know courts with a roof but still there are so many matches, so many players so let's hope that the worst is behind us." STORY: Defending champion Novak Djokovic said on Sunday (January 19) that he was saddened by the sight of players and ball kids struggling in smoky conditions during Australian Open qualifying and hoped the worst of the air pollution was behind them at the year's first Grand Slam.
Smoke from bushfires raging across the country blanketed Melbourne Park during the opening days of qualifying, forcing Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic to retire after she collapsed in a coughing fit and leaving other players battling for breath.
The threat of poor air disrupting the event has receded in recent days in the wake of a rainstorm, though forecasts for further wet weather could yet produce scheduling challenges when the tournament opens on Monday (January 20).
Victoria's Environmental Protection Authority rated the air quality in Melbourne as "good" on Sunday and forecast conditions would remain that way for the opening three days of the tournament.
A number of leading players have been active in fundraising and pledged to open their wallets to help with relief efforts in Australia where 29 people have been killed and thousands made homeless by the devastation.
(Production: Annette Faydenko)