Canadian prodigy Denis Shapovalov has taken the toughest stance yet on bush-fire smoke at the Australian Open, telling reporters that he would rather pull out of the tournament than risk his health in polluted air.
The issue of poor air quality has dogged the tournament's qualifying competition, which ended on Saturday. Slovakia's Dalila Jakupovic earned global headlines on Tuesday when she was forced to retire from her match with breathing difficulties.
If anything similar were to happen in the main event, starting today, the backlash against Tennis Australia would be significant. This event's reputation of being player-friendly is at risk if big names are sent out to compete in a heavy smoke haze.
Asked how he would respond if he felt conditions were unsafe, Shapovalov's response was stark. "I wouldn't play," he said. "Obviously it's a grand slam, it's a big opportunity, but I'm 20 ... I don't want to risk my life, risk my health, being out there playing out there in these conditions, when I can for the next 10, 15 years.
"I don't think I've seen anyone happy with the way things are being dealt with."
Tennis Australia belatedly produced an air-quality policy on Friday that said play would be suspended if the concentration of dangerous P2.5 particles exceeded 200 micrograms per cubic metre.
Another clause suggested that, when the score is between 97 and 200, "this will trigger a discussion between medical staff and officials about the advisability or otherwise of proceeding with match play."
But the 13th seed sounded unconvinced about the scientific evidence underpinning this decision.
"You get warnings from the news telling people to stay inside, that it's not good to be outside, breathing this stuff in. And then you get an email from the tournament saying it's playable," Shapovalov said.
Last week, several lower-ranked players called for more support from the big names on this emotive issue.
But the ATP tour's senior pro, Roger Federer, defended himself.
"I don't think I can do more than what I did."