Petra Kvitova admitted she was worried about the air quality in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, particularly as an asthma sufferer.

The year's first grand slam has been impacted by poor air quality in Victoria's capital after bushfires ravaged Australia in recent months.

Organisers have faced criticism during the qualifying rounds, although air quality has been rated as 'good' in Melbourne since Thursday.

Kvitova, who suffers from asthma, said the air was a concern heading into the grand slam.

"I've been a bit worried about it. Now I'm very happy that, as I mentioned, the sky, it's there again clearly," last year's runner-up told a news conference on Saturday.

"Of course everybody knows that I do have asthma problems, which I wasn't really happy about that if the air is still bad.

"It's same for everybody, so it will be really difficult to breathe for sure. I do have my medicines here, as well.

"Yeah, I'm going to use it if it's important."

However, Kvitova – who faces fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova in the first round – backed officials.

"Well, I'm very comfortable with everything they've taken," she said.

Naomi Osaka believes she is not as fearless as last year as she prepares for her Australian Open title defence.

The Japanese star claimed her second grand slam title in Melbourne in 2019, backing up her US Open success from just months prior.

But the 22-year-old, seemingly more aware of what was at stake, said she felt more fearless last year.

"I feel like last year I was young. Last year I feel like I was young. I was just this young kid that was going out. My goal was to win, and I wasn't going to let anything stop me," Osaka told a news conference on Saturday.

"I feel like now I appreciate more every single win because I know what it took to get it.

"Of course, I want to win every match and I want to go out there and do that. That's what I'm here for.

"I think maybe last year I was a little bit more fearless."

Osaka, the world number three, is again among the favourites and faces Marie Bouzkova in her first-round match.

Ashleigh Barty, the world's top-ranked player, is also expected to challenge and Osaka praised the Australian while talking down suggestions of a rivalry with a player she has met three times since the start of 2018.

"It's super weird. People keep asking me questions like we're rivals or something. She's in the finals of Adelaide right now," she said.

"I think obviously she's a great player. She's the number one ranked player in the world. I don't know, we've played really close matches."

Caroline Wozniacki insisted she was calm and just enjoying herself ahead of her final professional tournament at the Australian Open.

Wozniacki will retire after the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, ending a career that saw her win the title in Melbourne in 2018 and hold the top ranking.

The Dane, 29, said she was staying calm so far, but expects there to be emotion once her career is officially over.

"It's not a situation that I've ever been in. It's hard to tell," Wozniacki told a news conference on Saturday when asked if she would stay calm.

"So far I'm calm and just enjoying myself. I have my family here, which is great. I'm sure once the last ball is hit, it's going to be a bit emotional."

Wozniacki will face Kristie Ahn in the opening round in Melbourne, but said her approach had remained unchanged despite the circumstances.

"So far I've just approached it like any other tournament, but obviously it's different since it's my last one," she said.

"I'm just enjoying being out there. I've had some great practice sessions. I've done everything I could to prepare as well as I can for this tournament, then hope for the best."

Ash Barty produced a superb comeback to reach the final of the Adelaide International, where she will face Dayana Yastremska in an enticing clash before she bids to win the Australian Open.

The world number one was forced to come through a testing last-four encounter with American Danielle Collins but got a victory that ensures she will remain top of the rankings after the first major of 2020.

Her power posed Barty plenty of problems and another shock appeared on the cards when Collins, who defeated Sofia Kenin and Belinda Bencic en route to the semis, claimed the first set.

Collins struggled on serve in the second set, however, and Barty was ruthless in capitalising as she raced into a 5-0 lead.

Powerless to prevent Barty forcing a decider, Collins demonstrated admirable resilience in the third set.

Barty broke for a 4-3 lead with a return winner, but Collins' vicious backhand saw her hit straight back.

The same shot proved her downfall in the decisive tie-break, though, a backhand error securing the match for Barty, who will turn her attention to one of the WTA Tour's rising stars in Yastremska.

Ranked 24th in the world, the 19-year-old overcame world number 12 Aryna Sabalenka, adding the Belarusian to a list of scalps that has this week also included Angelique Kerber.

Sabalenka saw off Simona Halep in the quarter-finals but Yastremska had too much for her as the Ukrainian completed a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) success.

"Especially in the beginning of the year, I think it brings me some confidence before the grand slam, so it's nice to be in the finals," Yastremska said after reaching her first WTA Premier final.

"Here I started really to feel, with each game, that I'm playing better and better."

Meanwhile, at the Hobart International, Zhang Shuai overcame Veronika Kudermetova to set up a final with Elena Rybakina, who beat 2015 champion Heather Watson.

Angelique Kerber is hopeful over her fitness for the Australian Open as she deals with a hamstring injury.

Kerber retired during her second-round match against Dayana Yastremska at the Adelaide International on Wednesday.

The 2016 Australian Open champion, who will face a qualifier in the first round, said she was hopeful ahead of the tournament starting on Monday.

"I'm trusting my team and I mean of course it was not the way I would like to play in Adelaide and finish the tournament before Melbourne," Kerber told a news conference on Friday.

"But I know right now what it is, I'm also in touch with my medical team in Germany and here with my team so I'm hopeful and I'm thinking that it will be fine when I start the tournament."

Kerber revealed she dealt with a similar left-hamstring injury late last year and knows how to cope with the issue.

"I had it before at the end of last year so I know a little bit what it is and we know what we have to do and how to treat that," she said.

"That's actually a good sign that everybody knows how to take care of it."

Venus Williams' clash with Coco Gauff headlines the Australian Open first round, but former champion Stan Wawrinka also faces an early test in Melbourne.

Williams and Gauff will meet for the second time in what is a blockbuster opening-round encounter.

But there are several intriguing clashes in the first round at the year's first grand slam and we take a look at six of the best.

 

Damir Dzumhur v Stan Wawrinka [15]

Wawrinka would have preferred a friendlier draw than a man he has lost to in two of their three meetings. The Swiss 2014 champion was resurgent last year, while Dzumhur has been unable to replicate the form of his breakout season in 2017. Still, the Bosnian beat Wawrinka in three sets on clay in Geneva last year so the three-time grand slam champion will have to be near his best.

Daniil Medvedev [4] v Frances Tiafoe

Tiafoe thrilled during a run to the quarter-finals in Melbourne last year, but that would prove to be the high point of his 2019. The American has made a slow start to 2020 with first-round losses in Doha and Auckland, but was competitive against Medvedev in a 6-2 7-5 loss in Washington last year. After a spectacular 2019 that included reaching the US Open final, Medvedev shapes as the most likely to stop the 'Big Three', although he will need to get through a somewhat tricky opener first.

Sam Querrey v Borna Coric [25]

While he has dropped off since 2017, Querrey will fancy his chances against Coric after the Croatian's difficult finish to last year. Coric finished 2019 with six straight losses and suffered two more at the ATP Cup, to go with a win over Dominic Thiem. After four consecutive first-round exits in Melbourne, Coric reached the fourth round last year, while Querrey has never been beyond the third round in Melbourne. Coric won their only previous meeting at the French Open in 2015.

Venus Williams v Coco Gauff

Arguably the pick of any first-round match, the 39-year-old Williams meets the 15-year-old Gauff once more. Gauff stunned Williams 6-4 6-4 at Wimbledon last year and her ranking then (313) compared to now (66) tells the story of how she finished 2019 as the teenager followed it up with a title win in Linz. Williams withdrew from Brisbane due to injury, making this a hugely tough task for the seven-time grand slam singles champion.

Kristina Mladenovic v Karolina Pliskova [2]

Pliskova has enjoyed Melbourne in recent years, reaching at least the quarter-finals in each of the past three, but was handed a tough start in 2020. The Czech is coming off a title win in Brisbane and that will give her much-needed confidence ahead of facing former world number 10 Mladenovic. The pair have split their previous four meetings, with Mladenovic winning the last of those in 2017.

Donna Vekic [19] v Maria Sharapova

A wildcard, Sharapova was always going to be the danger in the draw – and she landed alongside 19th seed Vekic. Vekic enjoyed a fine 2019 to rise into the world's top 20, while Sharapova battled injuries and has fallen to 145th in the rankings. Vekic should be the favourite to advance, but if five-time major winner Sharapova can find some form, the Russian is always a threat and last bowed out in the opening round in Melbourne in 2010.

Garbine Muguruza hopes to be fit for the Australian Open after withdrawing from the Hobart International due to a viral illness.

Former world number one Muguruza withdrew from her quarter-final against Veronika Kudermetova on Thursday.

The two-time grand slam winner is scheduled to face a qualifier in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday. She is in the same quarter of the draw as Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Angelique Kerber.

Muguruza tweeted: "I'm sorry I could not play today. I've had a fever for several days and this morning my body said 'enough'.

"I'll rest today and hope to travel to Melbourne tomorrow. I hope to be able to play [the Australian Open].

"I want to thank all the fans in Hobart for their support and love. I hope to return soon."

Heather Watson beat top seed Elise Mertens 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 7-5 to reach the semi-finals, while Kudermetova will take on Zhang Shuai.

At the Adelaide international Simona Halep suffered a 6-3 6-2 quarter-final loss to Aryna Sabalenka.

Second seed Halep lasted just one hour and nine minutes against Sabalenka, who reeled off seven straight games to take the first set and move 5-0 up in the second.

The Wimbledon champion won the next two games but was unable to hold serve to stay in the match.

Sabalenka will take on Dayana Yastremska, who beat Donna Vekic 6-4 6-3, in the semi-finals.

Top seed Ash Barty repeated her French Open final victory over Marketa Vondrousova to reach the final four in Adelaide.

Barty hit 20 winners and saved six of seven break points to secure a 6-3 6-3 triumph and advance to a meeting with Danielle Collins after the American overcame Belinda Bencic 6-3 6-1.

Liam Broady hit out at the ATP and Australian Open for sending an email which he described as a "slap in the face" regarding conditions in Melbourne.

Qualifying has been impacted at the year's first grand slam due to poor air quality, with organisers facing criticism for letting play go ahead despite the conditions.

Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic retired during her match due to breathing difficulties, with the air quality in Melbourne in the 'very poor' range on Tuesday as smoke from bushfires in Australia cause havoc.

Broady, who was beaten in qualifying on the same day, hit out at organisers amid concerns over player welfare.

"The more I think about the conditions we played in a few days ago the more it boils my blood. We can't let this slide," the Brit wrote in a message posted on Twitter.

"The email we received yesterday from the ATP and AO was a slap in the face, conditions were 'playable'. Were they 'healthy'? Citizens of Melbourne were warned to keep their animals indoors the day I played qualifying, and yet we were expected to go outside for high intensity physical competition?

"What do we have to do to create a players union? Where is the protection for players, both male and female? When multiple players need asthma spray on court and they don't even have asthma? When a player collapses and has to retire due to respiratory issues?

"On tour we let so many things go that aren't right but at some point we have to make a stand. ALL players need protection not just a select few."

Conditions in Melbourne improved on Wednesday, although 'moderate to poor' air quality was forecast for Thursday.

Three-time grand slam winner Angelique Kerber suffered a back injury that forced her to withdraw from the Adelaide International on Wednesday with the Australian Open just around the corner.

Kerber, who won the Australian Open in 2016, had lost the first set to Dayana Yastremska 6-3 and was a break down in the second when she required on-court medical assistance.

After being put through a series of stretches, the former world number one decided she was unable to carry on and retired, allowing Yastremska to reach the last eight of the competition, where she will meet Donna Vekic after her 2-6 7-5 6-1 win over Maria Sakkari.

The most impressive win of the day belonged to Marketa Vondrousova, however, as last year's French Open runner-up claimed a stunning 6-0 6-0 victory over home hope Arina Rodionova, setting up a meeting with another Aussie in the quarters – world number one Ash Barty.

Vondrousova, 20, is taking part in her first tournament since Wimbledon after undergoing wrist surgery in September and will be out for revenge against Barty, who beat her at Roland Garros in June.

Fourth seed Belinda Bencic came through a tight tussle with Julia Goerges to emerge a 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4) victor, with her last-eight opponent Danielle Collins having significantly less difficulty against fellow American Sofia Kenin – the unseeded 26-year-old winning 6-3 6-1.

The fourth quarter-final will see Aryna Sabalenka go head-to-head with Simona Halep, after the Belarussian sixth seed eliminated Bernarda Pera 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.

Elise Mertens remains on course for a third Hobart International title after the top seed dropped single game in her 6-1 6-0 defeat of Viktoria Kuzmova, setting up a quarter-final with Great Britain's Heather Watson, a 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 winner against Fiona Ferro.

Aussie wildcard Lizette Cabrera claimed a 4-6 6-4 6-4 upset over Kristyna Pliskova, while second seed Garbine Muguruza edged past Ons Jabeur 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) and will face Veronika Kudermetova.

Shuai Zhang, Lauren Davis and Elena Rybakina are also into the quarter-finals following respective triumphs over Kateryna Kozlova, Magda Linette and Alize Cornet on Wednesday.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have made a joint donation of 250,000 Australian dollars to the bushfire relief fund.

World number one Nadal announced the decision while taking part in the star-studded Rally4Relief event, which also included the likes of Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.

"Talking with Roger we decided to give 250,000 Australian dollars to the fire relief together," Nadal said when he was addressing the crowd.

"Hopefully that keeps inspiring the people to support this terrible disaster we are going through and helps to recover all the things that we need."

Players have announced a range of ways to support the bushfire relief efforts ever since Nick Kyrgios declared he would pay $200 for every ace he hits during the Australian summer, as well as calling on Tennis Australia to organise Wednesday's event.

Nadal, Federer and the other players involved took part in a series of matches and challenges while wearing a microphone to entertain the Melbourne crowd.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki, Coco Gauff and Petra Kvitova all took part.

Williams donated all of her Auckland Open winner's earnings and each of the dresses she had worn during the tournament after her victory in New Zealand last week, while Djokovic has also made a contribution.

The event came after Australian Open organisers imposed a two-hour delay on the start of qualifying matches due to the "very poor" air quality.

Bushfires across Australia have resulted in the deaths of at least 28 people, while an estimated 10 million hectares of land has been burned since July 1.

The Rally4Relief helped the overall fund reach just under $5million

Federer said: "Incredible number, so much needed, hope it keeps going. The Australian Open is only just around the corner now and hopefully much more money will come together. This was definitely an incredible kick off.

"This country all comes together for other people and that is a true inspiration for other countries around the world who are watching this now."

Australian Open organisers imposed a two-hour delay on the start of qualifying matches on Wednesday due to the "very poor" air quality from the ongoing bushfires in the country.

Hazardous conditions put back the first qualifying matches on Tuesday, with Dalila Jakupovic falling to her knees and experiencing breathing difficulties that forced the Slovenian to retire from her meeting with Stefanie Voegele.

Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria said the "very poor" conditions were forecast to improve with the chance of a storm.

Play was consequently set to begin at 13:00 local time (02:00 GMT).

"Practice has been suspended until 11am this morning due to air quality concerns, and play won’t start before 1pm," read a statement from Tennis Australia. 

"Conditions at Melbourne Park are being constantly monitored and further decisions will be made using the onsite data and in close consultation with our medical team, the Bureau of Meteorology and scientists from EPA Victoria. 

"The on-site data and measurements early this morning were similar to yesterday, when practice and play were suspended and delayed. Conditions yesterday were forecast to improve throughout the day, which is what occurred. 

"Play and practice at tournaments in Traralgon and Bendigo, along with a junior event at Royal Park in Melbourne have also been suspended."

Bushfires across Australia have resulted in the deaths of at least 28 people, while an estimated 10 million hectares of land has been burned since July 1.

Ash Barty escaped a scare against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to secure a first singles win of the year and Simona Halep also reached the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International.

Home hope Barty benefited from a bye into the second round, but no one could accuse her opponent of allowing her an easy stroll into the last eight, the world number one eventually coming out on top 4-6 6-3 7-5 after two hours and nine minutes on court.

The French Open champion was beaten by Jennifer Brady in her opening singles contest of 2020 at the Brisbane International last week and was in danger of falling at the first hurdle again on Tuesday.

Barty raised her game after losing the first set before a thrilling decider swung back and forth with a total of five breaks of serve, including when the top seed was twice serving for the match at 5-2 and 5-4. 

But the Australian bounced straight back with a break of her own to move 6-5 in front and then served it out at the third attempt to set up a meeting with either eighth seed Marketa Vondrousova or Arina Rodionova, the Australian qualifier who surprisingly saw off Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-2 in the first round.

Joining Barty in the quarters is Wimbledon champion Halep, who dealt with another Australian in the form of wildcard Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4 7-5 in her first singles contest of the season.

The second seed from Romania, who struck 19 winners and made only 11 unforced errors, will now face Aryna Sabalenka or Bernarda Pera in the final eight after they defeated Su-wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova, respectively.

Maria Sakkari, Donna Vekic and Julia Goerges came through first-round ties.

Top seed Elise Mertens eased into round two of the Hobart International, thrashing Christina McHale 6-1 6-1, and Garbine Muguruza advanced with a 6-1 7-5 defeat of Wang Yafan. 

Caroline Garcia, the eighth seed, was send packing by Australian outsider Lizette Cabrera on a day which also saw Elena Rybakina, CiCi Bellis, Alize Cornet, Ons Jabeur and Zhang Shuai go through.

A tennis player who abandoned her Australian Open qualifying match amid the bushfire smoke in Melbourne feared she would collapse on the court.

Dalila Jakupovic was a set to the good against Stefanie Vogele when the Slovenian suffered a coughing fit, eventually dropping to her knees and requiring assistance.

She was taken off the court and, speaking after the match was called off, the world number 180 expressed her surprise that it even went ahead, given the poor air quality.

"I was really scared that I would collapse," she said. "That's why I went onto the floor because I couldn't walk anymore.

"I don't have asthma and never had breathing problems. I actually like heat.

"The physio came again and I thought it would be better. But the points were a bit longer and I just couldn't breathe anymore and I just fell on the floor.

"It's not healthy for us. I was surprised, I thought we would not be playing but we don't have much choice."

Across the city at the Kooyong Stadium, former world number one Maria Sharapova's match against Laura Siegemund was called to a halt for the same reason.

The Russian was trailing 7-6 (7-4) 5-5 in the Kooyong Classic clash when play was suspended and Sharapova said officials had "made the right call".

Bushfires have ravaged Australia in recent months and led to concerns over the air quality at the year's first grand slam, which begins on Monday. 

Elina Svitolina, a quarter-finalist in Melbourne in each of the past two years, expressed her frustration at the perceived lack of action over the issue.

She tweeted: "Why do we need to wait for something bad to happen to [take] action?".

The tweet was accompanied by a graphic which showed the air quality to be "very unhealthy".

Maria Sharapova revealed she felt a "cough coming" before her match against Laura Siegemund at the Kooyong Classic was suspended.

Smoke blanketed Melbourne on Tuesday and play at the Australian Open was delayed, with readings showing the air quality in Victoria's capital as "very poor".

As players struggled with the conditions at Melbourne Park, Sharapova also battled at nearby Kooyong before her match against Siegemund was stopped.

The Russian former world number one, who was trailing 7-6 (7-4) 5-5, said organisers made the right decision.

"We played over two hours and I actually started feeling a little bit of a cough coming up to the end of the second set," Sharapova told SBS.

"But I've been sick for a few weeks so I thought it was something to do with that.

"When I heard Laura speak to the umpire and said she was struggling with it as well I was like, 'Okay, thankfully I'm not the only one' and then the umpire came down and said let's just play one more game.

"We were out there for over two hours so I think from a health standpoint it was the right call from the officials."

Bushfires have ravaged Australia in recent months and led to concerns over the air quality at the year's first grand slam.

Qualifying, and practice, were postponed early on Tuesday before play resumed, although Dalila Jakupovic retired from her match after having difficulties breathing.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley insisted players would not be put in danger amid air quality concerns in Melbourne.

Play was delayed on the opening day of qualifying on Tuesday due to poor air quality caused by bushfires in Australia.

While organisers faced criticism for allowing play to begin, Tiley said players would not be put at risk.

"We reiterated with the players that we're making a decision based on advice, based on expert advice," he told a news conference.

"We're not going to put them in harm's way or make any decision that's going to negatively impact their health and wellbeing.

"We have a track record of that when it comes to extreme heat. I think we're one of the few major events that has to manage extreme heat like we do.

"But this is a new experience for all of us, how we manage air quality and therefore we've got to rely on those experts that advise us on how best to continue."

Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic retired during her qualifier against Stefanie Voegele when leading 6-4 5-6, with reports suggesting she was struggling with her breathing.

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