MELBOURNE, Australia — As wildfires continue to burn in parts of Australia, the country’s Grand Slam tournament explained its recently developed air quality policy, saying it was based on a scientific analysis of something called “fine particulate matter rating” – but also giving the tournament referee the right to start or stop matches “at his or her absolute discretion.”

Australian Open organizers released the policy Friday, three days before the beginning of main-draw action, following complaints from some players who questioned whether qualifying matches should have been held this week even though Melbourne’s air quality was among the worst in the world because of smoke arriving from fires about 100 miles east of the city.

On Tuesday, one player collapsed to her knees while coughing heavily; another sought medical attention because he was having trouble breathing.
Friday’s statement said measurements of the air quality are made throughout each day of play, and conditions will be rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “good playing conditions,” and 5 representing conditions so bad that competition will be suspended – but even then, not immediately.

Instead, the policy says the break will arrive only after a set reaches an even number of games or an in-progress tiebreaker is completed.

And then the policy goes on to say: “At any point the Referee may decide to suspend, maintain or resume match play in accordance with this policy and at his or her absolute discretion, taking into account advice from onsite medical experts, visibility, forecast changes to weather conditions and any other factors deemed relevant to the overall assessment of air quality.”

At the three arenas with retractable roofs, play will be halted so the stadiums can be covered, and play may resume once that court’s air quality rating drops below 5.

When a suspended match resumes, players will be given at least 30 minutes of notice before needing to be back on court.

More than two dozen people and millions of animals have been killed in the fires around the continent.

IT WAS IN the shadows of the main show courts at Melbourne Park, days before the first Grand Slam tournament of the season is set to begin in earnest, and Eugenie Bouchard’s stay at the Australian Open was over in the last round of qualifying.

The 2014 Wimbledon runner-up, once as high as No. 5 in the rankings, has had a long slide down to No. 211. She’s had to get used to playing away from packed stadium courts. But a constant echo around the arena on Friday presented something new.

The 25-year-old Canadian survived nearly three hours against China’s You Xiaodi in heavy smoke and haze in the first round of qualifying and advanced through a second-rounder against Maddison Inglis in 65 minutes. With a spot in the main draw on the line, though, Bouchard lost 6-4, 6-3 to Martina Trevisan, a 26-year-old Italian who now will make her debut at a Grand Slam tournament.

“Super tough,” Bouchard said of the loss. “It’s last round of qualies. I felt like I was close.”

Bouchard lost seven straight games from 4-4 in the first set before she rallied and got back to 5-3 in the second, getting plenty of encouragement from a small but supportive crowd. Trevisan held her composure, though, and closed with an ace.

Bouchard said the changing wind and left-handed Trevisan’s different spin were tricky. But one distraction, she said, was just odd.

Every hit of the ball, every noise the players made, could be heard again a half-beat later.

After the third game, Bouchard went to chair umpire Carlos Bernardes to talk about the the noise.

“I said, ‘I don’t know if it’s a speaker, or a TV or what, but I can hear our match, like, half a second after. In the point, I hear us grunting during the point,'” she said. “It was weird.”

The echo — from a giant TV somewhere behind the arena — continued until match point.

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