Heat Policy Partially in Effect, Australian Open Blazes On

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Douglas Robson, @dougrobson, USA TODAY Sports

Australian Oven? Torrid Tuesday? Take your pick. The second day of the Australian Open was mind-numbingly hot.

A ball boy fainted. Players cramped. One vomited. Six retired, though not necessarily from frying pan-like temperatures that made sneakers sticky and water bottles melt.

Snoopy even showed up in the woozy mind of Canada's Frank Dancevic, shortly before he blacked out and collapsed in his first-round match. Dancevic later lashed out at tournament officials, calling the day's 108-degree heat inhumane.

"Until somebody dies, they're just going to keep playing matches," the Canadian qualifier said after his straight-sets loss to Benoit Paire. "I personally don't think it's fair."

And it's not going to let up.

Forecasts call for more 100-plus temperatures for the next two to three days, though perhaps not as severe as Tuesday, which peaked at 107.9.

Tournament officials downplayed the health risks on one of the hottest days in tournament history.

"Of course there were a few players who experienced heat-related illness or discomfort, but none required significant medical intervention after they had completed their match," Tim Wood, the tournament's chief medical officer, said in a statement.

Still, two stages of the tournament's heat policy were in effect: ice vests for all players and a 10-minute break for women between the second and third sets.

The tournament's extreme heat policy -- which can trigger the closure of retractable roofs and stoppage of play on outside courts -- was not activated because humidity levels were too low.

"In order for the heat rule to be implemented, we have to reach a minimum threshold and have a forecast that it will be sustained for a reasonable time," Australian Open referee Wayne McKewen said in a statement. "That didn't happen."

Fourth seed Andy Murray said it was a fine line between safe and sorry.

"As much as it's easy to say the conditions are safe, it only takes one bad thing to happen," the Scot said after dismantling Japan's Go Soeda 6-1, 6-1, 6-3.

"It looks terrible for the whole sport when people are collapsing, ball kids are collapsing, people in the stands are collapsing," the Wimbledon champion added. "That's obviously not great."

Fans stayed away, too. Tuesday's day attendance of 35,571 was down from Monday's opening-day record of 47,491.

On court, players donned ice packs, poured water over their heads and sought shade.

A ball boy required medical attention after collapsing during an early-day match.

Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki said she put a plastic water bottle down on the court and the bottom started to melt.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France said the soles of his sneakers became soft.

China's Peng Shuai threw up in a bucket and cramped near the end of a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 loss to Japan's Kurumi Nara.

Others described the court surface as a frying pan and the wind like "when I open the oven and the potatoes are done," American John Isner said.

Isner, seeded 13th, pulled the plug on his match while trailing Slovakia's Martin Klizan 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) with an ankle injury. He was one of nine players to retire in the first round.

That tied the 2011 U.S. Open for most retirements in a single round in a Grand Slam tournament.

Cool customer Roger Federer, who often trains in the hot desert of Dubai and began his record 57th consecutive major tournament, had little sympathy for his peers, adding he didn't think the roof over Rod Laver Arena where he played Tuesday should have been closed.

"It's just a mental thing," the 17-time Grand Slam winner said after defeating Australia's James Duckworth 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. "If you've trained hard enough your entire life or the last few weeks and you believe you can do it and come through it, there's no reason. If you can't deal with it, you throw in the towel."

Although Dancevic resumed his match -- not surprisingly he went on to lose 7-6 (14-12), 6-3, 6-4 -- he said the heat was such that fitness had little bearing on how players reacted.

"I think it doesn't have too much to do with the shape that the players are in," he said. "It's just the matter that some players are used to the heat, their genetics can handle the heat. ... I think it's hazardous to be out there. It's dangerous."


photo Aaron Favila, AP


January 15, 2014




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