The Australian Open could not have come at a worse time for competitors and fans alike. As wildfires blazed across Australia, the effects were seen and felt by everyone in attendance, as the air quality and overall conditions of the competition took a hit. While several players spoke out on the issue, superstars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal chose not to.
This irked at least one colleague. The Canadian tennis pro did not hold back when he chastised the star athletes for remaining silent.
How the fires affected players
Canadian tennis pro Brayden Schnur was not a fan of Nadal and Federer’s silence on the conditions in Australia. As two of the three biggest names in men’s tennis, the influence of these two could reach millions. However, neither chose to do so throughout the tournament.
Schnur took offense to their silence. The superstars pledged money to the victims of the bushfire but were silent when it came to player safety. Playing in poor air quality can be torture for even the most well-conditioned athletes.
In fact, several tennis players attributed their Australian Open play to the environment. Dalila Jakupović retired from her match against Stefanie Vogele after a coughing fit. Other stars, like Eugenie Bouchard, reported difficulty breathing, according to Business Insider.
“It’s got to come from the top guys — Roger and Rafa are a little bit selfish in thinking about themselves and their careers,” Schnur told the Associated Press. “They’re near the end, and all they’re thinking about is their legacy and they’re not thinking about the sport itself and trying to do what’s good for the sport — so those guys need to step up.”
Schnur said the poor conditions cause dry throats. For those with issues like asthma, air quality could lead to more serious problems. As the 103rd-ranked player in the world, however, Schnur’s words don’t hold the same weight as the superstars.
Should the Australian Open have been postponed?
The ATP rarely cancels tournaments. When they do, it’s due to extreme conditions, like rain. But a fire like this one adds a variety of issues that, while not as debilitating as rain on the surface, could hurt players long-term. Perhaps, there’s a reason Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal all underperformed at the Australian Open.
The tournament’s eventual champion, Novak Djokovic, even entertained postponement after experiencing the bad conditions. If a player can’t breathe properly, they can’t perform. On top of this, smoke inhalation can have a laundry list of negative long-term effects. so, is it Nadal and Federer’s job to speak up?
Should Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have spoken up?
Nadal and Federer had to play in harsh environments just like everybody else. In theory, if they’d dropped out or raised a fuss, the ATP may have considered taking drastic action. However, both tennis stars weren’t necessarily being selfish.
Had Federer and Nadal ignored the events altogether, a case could be made. However, by raising money for the victims, as Forbes reports, they showed they care.
Any player worried about their safety could’ve backed out. Instead of criticizing the superstars for failing to speak up enough, Schnur might have been better off calling out the ATP. It was the organization, after all, that moved forward with the tournament. Federer and Nadal have sway, but the power still lies in the hands of the tennis overlords.
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