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ATP to review extreme heat policy

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Simon Briggs

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Aus Open Day 7: Quarter-final berth beckons for Dellacqua

Tennis writers Greg Baum and Linda Pearce preview Day 7 of the Australian Open including Casey Dellacqua's fourth round clash with Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard.

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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.

"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.

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.

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

44 comments so far

  • And rightly so. The fact that the policy is a subjective call is a concern. There is no clear benchmark.

    Moreover, it is about risk. I've seen a number of comments suggesting players are "soft" for not liking the conditions or struggling in them. At what point would there be sufficient evidence of risk to change that perception? Would someone have to have a heart attack, stroke or even die, in order for there to be a review (at the least) of the policy on playing in extreme heat?

    A grand slam should absolutely be a test of stamina and fitness. But it is not and nor should it ever be a version of the Hunger Games in which we watch on to see whom might collapse first.

    Commenter
    janeygotagun
    Date and time
    January 18, 2014, 12:32PM
    • Other work places must comply with work place safety laws and ensure extreme heat policies are in place and observed. Big Tennis seems to avoid these requirements. Is it because they lean on an army of volunteers? Or is it the case that work safe government officials are simply not game to serve it up it to them?

      Commenter
      Splash
      Location
      Billabong
      Date and time
      January 18, 2014, 12:48PM
    • Agree janey - the fact that we haven't seen more casualties is simply because these players ARE so fit and have so much stamina. What was asked of them this week was barbaric.

      I fully appreciate that a 'fixed' figure is not automatically appropriate - reaching that figure with a cool change fifteen minutes away, or reaching that figure five minutes before the end of the last game of the 'morning' and automatically stopping play would be a little silly.

      That said, IF we didn't reach that benchmark apart from once in the last four days, then the 'guidelines' are themselves bizarre and need serious readjustment.

      why doesn't logic dictate that on days of over 35 degrees, matches start earlier? Sure, many spectators would have their times affected, but they would ALWAYS know the day before.

      Commenter
      cuts both ways
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      January 18, 2014, 4:28PM
  • Something has to be done - when players, fans and staff are passing out it makes the tournament officials look apathetic, careless, selfish and incompetent. (Actually the scheduling makes them look like that anyway ha ha). The opinion that players who retired due to the heat didn't train hard enough isn't fair. A person can be in top physical shape and still die of a heart attack. Everyone is different and has their own physical characteristics that could effect their ability to cope in extreme weather conditions. It's not a level playing field either because the show courts with roofs have more shade and are cooler than the exposed outside courts. When the temperature reaches a certain level play should be suspended, regardless of other factors like humidity etc... that just complicates things.

    Commenter
    bargearse
    Date and time
    January 18, 2014, 12:45PM
    • tennis is such a civilised sport. oh, this heat is rather unpleasant, best stay inside and drink some tea! i don't recall other, harder sporting events taking a break in hot weather. have they ever cancelled a stage of the Tour de France in sweltering southern France, where they climb mountains at suspiciously high speeds? no.

      Commenter
      husband of the year
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      January 18, 2014, 12:46PM
      • When did the temperature in the south of France reach 44 degrees.

        Commenter
        Wernz
        Location
        East Melbourne
        Date and time
        January 18, 2014, 1:22PM
      • Husband of the year - great screen name! I agree that the players have the option to play or not. No one is forcing them to play and they continue on because let's face it the money is a pretty good carrot. Roger Federer trained in Dubai to prepare for the Aussie Open knowing what the conditions are. If we make it so that the roof is closed for anything over 30.1C, we can kiss the open era for the Australian open goodbye, the roof will be closed most days.

        Commenter
        Melbourne Mum
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        January 18, 2014, 1:32PM
      • @wernz - 2003 apparently.

        @Mum - that's it. it's just not that dangerous. how did it become that big a deal? there are lots more dangerous sports, including where heart attacks can happen. most endurance sports are right up there. Federer was right - but he does the preparation.

        Commenter
        husband of the year
        Location
        melb
        Date and time
        January 18, 2014, 3:05PM
      • @Wernz

        It's not uncommon to get such temperatures in the south of France. Even in the north of France it can happen - in 2003 Auxerre had 7 days of temperatures of 40 degrees C or above. Australia doesn't have a monopoly on hot weather.

        Commenter
        Toby
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        January 18, 2014, 5:33PM
    • We all know why they don't stop play. Channel 7 is paying the piper and they call the tune.

      Commenter
      Rhm
      Date and time
      January 18, 2014, 12:51PM

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