October 31st, 2014
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The current heatwave in Melbourne meant that during the second day of the Australian Open players were competing on court in intense heat.
With temperatures hitting 42 degrees, some players have questioned why organisers have not stepped in and applied emergency heat rules.
“It doesn’t look good for the sport when people are collapsing,” said world number four Andy Murray. “Most of the players are conditioned well enough to last in that weather but doing it for three or four hours is tough to recover from.”
The Wimbledon champion impressed during his relatively quick straight sets win over Japan’s Go Soeda but was concerned at the effects of the heat on other players.
“At 3pm, the conditions were very, very tough,” added Murray. “Whether it’s safe, I don’t know, but there have been issues in other sports with players collapsing and you don’t want to see anything bad happen to anyone.”
Frank Dancevic of Canada was treated by medical staff after passing out during his first round match.
“Until somebody dies, they just keep going on with it and putting matches on in this heat,” commented Dancevic. “It’s inhumane, I don’t think it’s fair to anybody. I’ve played five-set matches all my life and being out there for a set and a half and passing out with heat-stroke is not normal.”
During Milos Raonic’s encounter with Daniel Gimono-Traver, a ball boy collapsed and received medical treatment. While later on Carline Wozniacki’s water bottle melted during her match with Lourdes Dominguez Lino.
“I put the bottle down on the court and it started melting a little bit underneath, the plastic, so you knew it was warm,” said Wozniacki. “It felt like I was playing in a sauna.”
Jelena Jankovic of Serbia burned her upper legs when she sat on an uncovered seat during a changeover in her match with Japan’s Misaki Doi.
“For the health of the players they should have a temperature where you don’t play,” said Jankovic. “It doesn’t matter how good a player you are sometimes your body can’t cope with this. It’s not easy and you can’t enjoy playing when you are ready to explode and are red in the face.”
Despite these incidents and others, Tim Wood, chief medical officer of the Australian Open, felt there was little risk to player health.
“The majority of matches today were completed without any court calls from the medical team,” said Wood. “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.”
With the forecast for more hot weather, the issue is likely to simmer for a while yet.