Ivan Dodig retired during the fourth set against Damir Dzumhur. Photo: Reuters
There are moments when, even for a professional athlete, the result of a match can seem trivial. Croatian tennis player Ivan Dodig experienced one of them on Wednesday.
The clock was moving towards 2pm, and the temperature was climbing towards 41.5C, when Dodig retired from his match against Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur after two hours and 22 minutes with the score at 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 1-4 and heading for a fifth set.
Half an hour later, Dodig lay writhing on the floor in agony, with all his muscles screaming at him. "I was thinking I could maybe even die here," he said.
Dodig had gone into a full body cramp, which happens when salt levels in the body become depleted. He was the only player unable to finish his match on Wednesday, but not the only one to suffer, as Melbourne Park broiled in the sun for the second successive day.
A temperature of 44C is forecast for Thursday and another 40-plus day on Friday, with the added concern of strong winds that will bring a risk of bushfires.
"We players should start to talk about this for the future," Dodig said. "Because many people in the locker room say they [tournament organisers] will stop when somebody dies on the court and I would not like to see that happen in this sport.
"I think we deserve that somebody listens to the voice of the players. You can make a gap for a couple of hours; let's say from 1 to 4pm. We have lights on the courts, TV can adapt a bit and it's better for us if we play everybody in the night session."
Dodig was not the only man to complain about the heat on Wednesday. Florian Mayer, who won the day's only five-set match 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 against Mikhail Youzhny in just over three hours, suggested: "It's dangerous to play, but I don't make the rules. It's the decision of the guys here, we cannot change it."