Great Britain

Roger Federer responds to “selfish” bushfire criticism, saying he cares about lower-ranked stars

ROGER FEDERER insists he isn’t selfish and cares about lower-ranked players – but was left “confused” by Aussie Open chiefs’ bushfire safety guidance.

Many players were angry with the tournament organisers for holding qualifiers last week in smoky, dangerous conditions in Melbourne.

Legends Federer and Rafa Nadal were branded “selfish” by Canadian world No.103 Brayden Schnur, who wanted the sport’s biggest names to speak up for the lesson-known stars.

Federer claims he met with the top brass and voiced his concerns about the poor air quality following mixed messages about whether it was safe to go outside.

The 38-year-old said: “Maybe that message comes a bit late after the ATP Cup is over, after qualifying is over.
“Communication is key from the tournament to the people, to the media, to the fans, to the players.

“Because you hear it’s not safe to be outside, keep your pets inside, close your windows.

“Then you have court calls, you look at the haze and everything, it doesn’t look good.

“I was in the office and asked: ‘What’s the situation?’

“I said: ‘I think we’re all confused. Is it super unsafe or is it totally safe to play?’

“So what can I do? I went to them the first day when it was bad on Tuesday, the next day on Wednesday when it was still bad.

“I told them: ‘Look, I just think communication is key for all of us.’ I felt like I hadn’t gotten enough information.

“Can I go on court and say: ‘Everybody stop play?’ I can try. I don’t think that’s going to do much.

“I don’t think I can do more than what I did. I’m on the council. I’ve been on the tour for so long. I came through the lower ranks, the juniors.

“At the end of the day we all care for one another. We cross paths in the locker room.”

Brit Liam Broady was angry played a qualifier in smog, saying he was left “gasping for air” during his defeat to Belarusian Ilya Ivashka. Other players have had treatment on court and reported breathing difficulties and headaches.

American qualifier Noah Rubin claims he had “blood and black stuff” coming out of his nose after his defeat.

World No.6 Stefanos Tsitsipas said he had problems with his lungs after practising in the smoky conditions.

Play will be suspended by on-court referees if the level of pollution exceeds 200 over the next two weeks.

No.3 seed Federer, who faces American Steve Johnson on Monday, donated £131,000 jointly with Nadal to the Australian bushfire relief fund.

And the pair helped to raise more than £2.7m during a fund-raising rally at the Rod Laver Arena last Wednesday.

He said: “I don’t think it’s going to be throughout the entire tournament bad air quality. We should be fine. But the problem is the animals, the forest, the bushes, the people, the fire-fighters. That’s the difficult part.

“I’m not worried. I worry more for everybody else who is in the fire, in the smoke.

“From what we were told in the player meeting, the Olympic Games and other competitions have the numbers set at 300 (before play suspension).

“Ours is set at 200. From that standpoint, I think we’re moving in a very safe range.

“We’re not here for six months straight at over 200-300. That’s when maybe effects really become bad.”

In a separate story, Federer was criticised by teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg for his sponsorship links to bank Credit Suisse, which has been slammed over its alleged financing of companies investing in the fossil fuel industries.

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