Sixteen U.S. women and 10 U.S. men are among the 128 on each side of the Australian Open qualifying tournament this week that began on Tuesday, but the tournament is dealing with smoke from the Australian bushfires that are threatening to cause the air quality to plummet.

Fires in East Gippsland, near Melbourne, caused evacuations and the same conditions are now moving into the city and tournament site where air quality readings have hit hazardous levels, according to iNews Australia. Air quality ratings above 400, based on the level of “fine particulate matter” in the air is regarded as dangerous, and on Monday night the Australian Open’s Albert Park venue recorded a reading of 441.

Albert Park has three stadium courts where the roof can be closed for play, as well as eight indoor practice courts that could be used.

“We have access to real-time monitoring of air quality at all of our venues and are working closely with medical personnel and local experts onsite to ensure we have the best possible information available to make any decisions regarding whether play should be halted at any point,” said Tennis Australia Chief Executive Craig Tiley.

The U.S. women’s 16 players in the qualifying draw is the most in 32 years.

Last year, American teen CoCo Gauff broke through on the WTA tour, and this year her teen doubles partner, Caty McNally, will be looking to do the same by first navigating the qualifying draw at the Australian Open. The 18-year-old McNally reached her first WTA semifinal in Washington last August and then lost to Serena Williams to three sets at the US Open.

Americans Nicole Gibbs and Shelby Rogers will start their comeback bids in the Aussie Open qualifying. Gibbs overcame salivary gland cancer in 2019, while Rogers missed last year’s Australian Open after knee surgery.

The 16 American women in the Australian Open draw are Ann Li, Sachia Vickery, Varvara Lepchenko, Irina Falconi, Allie Kiick, Robin Anderson, Danielle Lao, Shelby Rogers, Caroline Dolehide, Caty McNally, Asia Muhammad, Hailey Baptiste, Usue Maitane Arconada, Nicole Gibbs, Whitney Osuigwe, and Francesca Di Lorenzo.

The 10 American men in the qualifying are Noah Rubin, Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, Chris Eubanks, Bradley Klahn, Denis Kudla, Mitchell Krueger, Ernesto Escobedo, J.J. Wolf, Donald Young, and Maxime Cressy.

Among the men Eubanks and Krueger will look to repeat their qualifying efforts from 2019, when Bjorn Fratangelo was the third American qualifier. Lepchenko among the women was the lone U.S. qualifier from 2019.

For more info go to www.ausopen.com.

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