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Harriet Dart progresses despite poor air quality at Australian Open

BRITAIN’S Harriet Dart has reached the second round of qualifying for the Australian Open, despite the poor air quality which forced one ‘really scared’ player to quit her match.

Dart beat Bulgaria’s world number 194 Elitsa Kostova 6-4 6-1 in 75 minutes to set up a meeting with American 15th seed Nicole Gibbs.

Qualifying was delayed by an hour and practice was temporarily suspended because of the air quality caused by ongoing bush fires, with several players suffering from breathing difficulties.

Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire at 6-5 5-6 against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegel, the world number 180 being helped off court after collapsing with a coughing fit.

‘I was really scared that I would collapse. That’s why I went onto the floor because I couldn’t walk any more,’ Jakupovic said in her post-match press conference.

‘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 any more and I just fell on the floor.

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

Difficulties: Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupovic collapsed in a coughing fit

Former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard also left the court, complaining of a sore chest, during her match against China’s You Xiaodi, although the Canadian returned to play the final set following the medical timeout and won 4-6 7-6 6-1.

The tournament organsiers insisted the health and safety of players, staff and fans was its priority.