A week of roasting temperatures and multiple player meltdowns in Melbourne is likely to force a change of policy from the Association of Tennis Professionals - the governing body of men's tennis - before next year's Australian Open.
Only once has play been suspended on the outside courts, despite casualties among players, spectators, ballboys and cameramen.
Sources suggest that the issue will be discussed at the next ATP player council meeting, in Indian Wells in March, following a fractious start to the year's first grand slam.
"There are just a lot of questions in the air that maybe should be solved": Maria Sharapova of Russia. Photo: Getty Images
A number of men and women players have suffered severe reactions to the heat, with Frank Dancevic, Shaui Peng, Ivan Dodig, Varvara Lepchenko, Galina Voskoboeva and Jamie Murray being the most obvious cases.
But while the Women's Tennis Association has applied an ''extreme heat rule'' in the women's tour since 1992, which allows for an optional 10-minute break before the deciding set, there is no equivalent for the men. Individual tournaments are left to form their own policies.
Here at Melbourne Park, the WTA's interval applies as soon as the Wet Globe Bulb Temperature reaches 30.1C (86.2F). And yet tournament referee Wayne McEwen has refused to offer an equivalent figure for when play on the outside courts should be suspended and the roofs on the two main arenas closed.
Camila Giorgi of Italy (top left), Maria Sharapova of Russia (top Right), Kei Nishikori of Japan (bottom left), and Alize Cornet of France (bottom right) attempt to cool down with ice-packed towels. Photo: Reuters
On Friday Chris Kermode, the ATP's new chief executive, suggested these guidelines were too vague. ''Clear messaging is paramount,'' Kermode told the BBC. ''We need to make sure that players are very clear when they step onto the court about what temperature means the roof goes on or a game is stopped.
''We've had exceptional circumstances in the last few days. We'll monitor this, gather information, review it and talk about the best way to approach it in the future.''
Few have been impressed by the Australian Open's sluggish response to the last four days of 100 degrees-plus heat. Only once has play been suspended on the outside courts, despite casualties among players, spectators, ballboys and cameramen.
Casualty: A ballboy faints in the heat at Melbourne Park. Photo: Getty Images
On her Twitter page yesterday, Maria Sharapova reproduced Dr Tim Wood, the Australian Open's chief medical officer, unsympathetic suggestion that ''we evolved on the high plains of Africa chasing antelope for eight hours under these conditions''.
''No one really knows what the limit is, in terms of temperature or humidity,'' Sharapova said on Thursday, after her 3hr 28min victory over Karin Knapp in the burning sun. ''There are just a lot of questions in the air that maybe should be solved.''
McEwen argues that the suspension of play must be a judgment call, because of the potential for temperatures to spike briefly.
But a number of players have expressed their unhappiness with McEwen's judgment this week, and the ATP may look to take the matter out of his hands before next year's tournament.
Daily Telegraph, London