Australian Open Stopped for Player’s Safety: Extreme Heat

Australian OpenScorching temperatures finally stopped the action at the Australian Open in order to protect player’s safety amidst the extreme heat in Melbourne Australia this week. Although play has now been officially stopped some experts think that officials should have made this call long ago. A high of 110 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded close by on the last day of action.

“The heat is roughly on par with what was in place in early June in Phoenix. The MLB’s Arizona Diamondback’s would have the roof closed and air conditioning on when playing home games in similar conditions,” says senior meteorologist for weather.com Jon Erdman.

Of course there are not retractable roofs and air conditioning at all of the courts in Melbourne, making some think that player safety was at risk by not stopping matches sooner in the extreme heat. Many players are furious with the decision to wait this long.

Halting the matches due to heat is not unprecedented in Australian Open history. Matches were suspended back in 2009 for the same reason.

The policy to stop the play, called the Extreme Heat Policy was put into place at about 2 p.m. on Thursday.

For some players the call to halt play came too late. Maria Sharapova was in the middle of the third set with Karin Knapp which meant that the roof could not be retracted. Rule states the roof can only be retracted at the start of a new set.

Sharapova said that she knew that there was no tie at the Australian Open and that she was just going to have to work until she was done. Sharapova finished out the set, winning 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 in a grueling 3 ½ hour match.

Many players struggled with the heat, needing medical attention and treatment during their matches. Trainers could be spotted rubbing ice on their player’ legs and players would hold bags of ice to their heads at breaks during the action.

American Varvara Lepchenko who says that she really started to feel negative effects from the heat and reported feeling dizzy on the court is confused. “They definitely should not have just started the matches in the first place. And the same goes for a couple of days ago when I played my match,” she said.

Tuesday of this week Canadian Frank Dancevic suffered a black and reportedly “hallucinated” during his match-up. Peng Shuai of China also suffered severe problems at his match, vomiting and cramping because of the heat.

One player started to cry after winning and then began haranguing officials for not stopping play sooner. “It was an oven. An oven. It was burning. Why today and not Tuesday?” Alize Cornet of France asked.

At this moment it does not appear that any severe side effects have occurred from playing in the heat. Still, players are exhausted and need this time to allow their bodies to recover. Word has not been given when the Australian Open will resume, but Saturday is supposed to be cooler, possibly ending the stoppage of play called on by Australian Open officials after extreme heat threatened player safety.

By Nick Manai

Weather.com

Sydney Morning Herald

New York Times

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