In distressing scenes this afternoon, a player competing in the qualifying rounds of the Australian Open has had to withdraw from the tournament after suffering a coughing fit brought on by the shocking air quality in Melbourne today as a blanket of bushfire smoke continues to linger across the city.

Slovenian hopeful Dalila Jakupovic had her Open aspirations dashed after she succumbed to breathing issues in the second set of her matchup against Switzerland’s Stefanie Vögele. Up one set and on the verge of levelling the second at 6 games apiece, Jakupovic collapsed to the court due to a reportedly “horrendous” coughing fit, before making the decision to retire after receiving medical treatment.

Footage of the incident shows a clearly deeply distressed Jakupovic struggling to catch her breath, with concerned officials rushing to her side.

Jakupovic received medical treatment several times throughout the match after complaining of breathing difficulties in the first set.

Australian Open officials had previously halted practice sessions and qualifying matchups due to the air quality in Melbourne, which has been hovering between “hazardous” and “very unhealthy” levels ever since the blanket of smoke settled across the city last night. However that suspension was lifted at 11am and play was allowed to recommence after receiving advice from air quality specialists.

However, that appears to have proven little comfort for Jakupovic, with photos from the arena showing a barely visible city skyline sitting behind a thick blanket of smoke haze.

Open officials are reportedly hopeful that the smoke haze will fully lift in time for the tournament proper, which begins next Monday. But if it doesn’t, severe questions about player safety have to be raised in the wake of today’s incident.

Image: Twitter / Simon Briggs