Rivals rarely have a bad word to say about Roger Federer.
Rivals rarely have a bad word to say about Roger Federer.

Star backtracks after ‘selfish’ Fed swipe

CANADIAN tennis player Brayden Schnur has backtracked after labelling all-time greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal "selfish", saying his words were taken out of context.

Schnur originally accused the duo of being more concerned about their legacies, saying it's time the pair stepped up and protested against playing conditions during Australian Open qualifying before clarifying himself.

The world No.103, who is the third seed in the Australian Open qualifying tournament, was scathing of officials after his first-round win over Austrian Sebastian Ofner, which took over two hours in the smoky conditions that blanketed Melbourne Park on Wednesday.

He also said it was incumbent upon the biggest names is the sport to be the voice for lesser-known players.

"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 said.

"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."

However, Schnur took to social media on Thursday after his comments sparked headlines to apologise for his remarks.

"I believe that the problems that we are currently experiencing in connection with the poor air quality in Melbourne and the controversy surrounding the decision to continue to play matches is the perfect example as to why we need a better union among players," Schnur wrote.

A fan wears a respiratory mask during 2020 Australian Open Qualifying at Melbourne Park.
A fan wears a respiratory mask during 2020 Australian Open Qualifying at Melbourne Park.

"To do so, we need the support of the top players so they can speak on behalf of other players, like myself, who are ranked outside the Top 100. Whose voices never get heard and their opinions don't matter.

"I would like to apologise to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. They are two players for whom I have an enormous amount of respect. Their contributions to the sport of tennis have been remarkable and I am grateful for everything that they have done.

"I misspoke when I used the term 'selfish', a poor choice of words that I regret.

"Rather, I was trying to explain that we needed leaders like them to keep the conversations going among the players and to further unify our claims."

Schnur battled with conditions during his win over Ofner on Wednesday, which he described as like smoking a cigarette. "You feel super dryness in your throat," he said.

"That's 100 per cent not normal and players who have asthma are at a huge disadvantage right now."

It’s not everyday a fellow player has a crack at Roger Federer.
It’s not everyday a fellow player has a crack at Roger Federer.

Organisers delayed play by three hours on Wednesday but the air quality index at 1pm when the players took to court was still graded as "unhealthy" due to the smoke from the bushfires in Victoria.

German Dustin Brown had to call for medical treatment and was given an asthma puffer to use during his loss to qualifying top seed Dennis Novak of Austria. A distressed Brown didn't want to talk to media post-match.

On Tuesday Slovenia's Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire while leading her match after she collapsed to her knees with a coughing fit.

Schnur said qualifiers were being treated poorly by Open organisers. "This is why the players need to unite as one and make a decision for themselves because it's not healthy to play in," he said.

"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."

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who is president of the ATP Player Council, has spoken of his concern for player welfare and questioned whether the tournament start should be delayed until conditions improved.

There was no option to move play to the venue's eight indoor courts, excluding the main air-conditioned arenas such as Rod Laver, Arena as there are permanent open vents.

Bernard Tomic struggles to catch his breath during his qualifying loss.
Bernard Tomic struggles to catch his breath during his qualifying loss.

While smoke delayed the start of play, it was suspended at 4.30pm when a storm hit Melbourne.

Victorian Jaimee Fourlis was mid-match against China's Fang Yin Xun on Wednesday, with the pair level at one set all when play was called off.

Tennis Australia has defended its stance, saying it will continue to work with its medical team and the Bureau of Meteorology and Environment Protection Authority Victoria scientists when making decisions about whether it's safe to play.

TA said it has installed measuring devices on-site for air quality, with play cleared to continue during the opening round of qualifying.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton, has called on the tournament to have an air quality policy but TA says the unprecedented fire crisis meant there hadn't been time.



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