Tennis players in the Australian Open will be allowed to wear gas masks to help them breathe properly in the choking conditions.
The championship’s qualifying stages have been dogged by a series of complaints from competitors about poor air quality as a result of raging bushfires.
Among those experiencing difficulties, Dalila Jakupovic collapsed and had to abandon her match when she could no longer cope with the punishing environment.
To combat the problem, officials have now decided that the players in the contest will be able to use gas masks.
Serbian tennis ace Novak Djokovic said: “Initially I was a bit sceptical about this announcement. But on reflection, if gas masks help reduce the risk of on-court asphyxia that can only be a good thing.
“I’ve had couple of practise matches wearing the masks and I would like a few small adjustments. For example I think the eye sockets should be fitted with windscreen wipers, because sometimes there is so much smoke floating around I can hardly see where the ball is.”
Always keen to exploit new markets, sports equipment manufacturers have quickly spotted the potential lucrative opportunities presented by the Antipodean environmental disaster.
The companies’ research and development teams are locked in a race to see who can produce the gas masks boasting the most ludicrously unnecessary, yet expensive, accessories. Among the results are a gas mask designed to appeal to hipsters, it features a large amount of a fake beard hair around the chin strap.
A spokesman for the Australian Open said that they were determined to continue with the competition and had drawn up contingency plans should the situation get any worse.
He said: “If the flames get even closer to the stadium we’ll allow competitors to play in fire retardant suits and hoods, along with rackets made out of asbestos.”