Tennis superstars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been branded selfish over the growing Australian Open bushfire controversy.

Canadian Brayden Schnur accused the legendary duo of selfishness for failing to take a stand as the qualifying tournament proceeded in unhealthy air. He described playing in Melbourne as akin to smoking a cigarette.

Big sports events like the Australian Open have also come under attack from a British sports columnist for failing to deal with wider issues such as climate change.

A fan in a respiratory mask at Melbourne Park this week. Photo / Getty Images
A fan in a respiratory mask at Melbourne Park this week. Photo / Getty Images

Schnur, the world No. 103, endured a two hour battle against Austrian Sebastian Ofner with Melbourne Park "blanketed" in smoky conditions as the Sydney Morning Herald described it.

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Schnur called on the top players to use their influence for the good of all.

"It's got to come from the top guys - Roger and Rafa are a little bit selfish in thinking about themselves and their careers," Schnur told AAP.

"Because they're near the end and all they're thinking about is their legacy and they're not thinking about the sport itself and trying to do what's good for the sport - so those guys need to step up."

On the conditions, Schnur said: "You feel super dryness in your throat. That's 100 per cent not normal and players who have asthma are at a huge disadvantage right now."

While play was delayed for three hours on Wednesday, it resumed with the air quality reading still "unhealthy".

German Dustin Brown needed medical treatment and an asthma puffer during his match, and was reportedly so "distressed" afterwards that he skipped the post-match media obligations.

Dustin Brown of Germany receiving medical treatment during his match against Dennis Novak. Photo / Getty Images
Dustin Brown of Germany receiving medical treatment during his match against Dennis Novak. Photo / Getty Images

A day earlier, Dalila Jakupovic retired while leading her match after a coughing fit forced the Slovenian to her knees.

Schnur said: ""This is why the players need to unite as one and make a decision for themselves because it's not healthy to play in.

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"You don't see the best soccer players in the world or the best golfers - if there's something wrong they postpone the game and in Melbourne they're just trying to shove us on the court because we're qualifiers."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported: "Tennis Australia said they had consulted with their medical team, led by Dr Carolyn Broderick, the Bureau of Meteorology and the EPA, as well as using on-court monitoring devices, before deciding to press ahead."

Nadal and Federer gave a combined $250,000 to the bushfire relief, as part of the Nick Kyrgiois-inspired tennis night which raised $5m.

Meanwhile British Telegraph writer Paul Hayward wrote that major sports needed to use their influence for world good on issues like climate change.

"Sport is big business trying to protect its income and status," he said.

"Change has been forced on it. There is no time however to argue about motives. The power of sport is that it conveys messages, societal, political and emotional, in a universal language.

"The whole industry is built on actions and consequences – and on us understanding them. Its leading stars are globally influential.

"The disruption to Australian Open qualifying was reported as a set of complaints and health scares. It needs to be seen more as a warning of the kind sport is well qualified to deliver."