MARIA Kirilenko was forced to play two tennis matches under the fierce sun in the early afternoon of one of Sydney's hottest days ever recorded and has called for the Sydney International to suspend matches played in extreme heat.
The 25-year-old Russian bowed out in straight sets in her singles loss to Italian Sara Errani before losing her doubles match with American Lisa Raymond only hours later, while the mercury remained above 40. Kirilenko struggled to perform in the stifling conditions and believes her doubles match should have been delayed until temperatures cooled.
''When it's hot like this, if it's over 40 I think it's good to cancel,'' Kirilenko said. ''I don't know if there are rules if the temp is higher than 40. Normally in Melbourne, if it's higher than 40 they cancel the matches, but here they didn't.''
Scorcher: Maria Kirilenko feels the heat at Sydney Olympic Park. Photo: Anthony Johnson
The world No. 14 endured a 60-degree turnaround in the past week after arriving in Sydney from the bitter Russian winter where temperatures flirted with minus 20 degrees. She found it difficult to cope in the soaring heat, which reached a court temperature of 49.9 degrees at one point on Tuesday.
''I feel tired of course because I had two matches and singles was really tough for me to play, especially because I just arrived from Russia where it's minus 20 and here it's completely different. Today was the hottest day and for me it was extremely tough, plus the wind, everything it was so difficult to feel the ball here,'' Kirilenko said.
The combination of the heat, wind and humidity also affected the trajectory of the ball. During the second set of her doubles match, Kirilenko mis-hit the ball after an unpredicted swerve and vented her frustration by slamming her racquet on the court.
''I was just angry with the ball and what happened. The wind came and the ball went away and it was a mis-hit, that's why I was a little bit angry with everything,'' she said.
Officials suspended play for 14 minutes during Svetlana Kuznetsova's win against Caroline Wozniacki due to the heat and Kazakhstani Galina Voskoboeva required treatment for heat stroke during her loss to German Angelique Kerber. Kirilenko believes that officials and umpires should have made additional provisions for the testing conditions.
''It was really hard, especially when I play doubles, you move half less than in singles but still it was so tough, even when you're standing. With the wind blowing hot air, it was tough.'' she said.
Meanwhile, Australian John Millman believes the heat played into the hands of the local players after his comfortable win over Spaniard Tommy Robredo.
Millman says his preparation in the humid climate of Queensland gave him an advantage in the blistering heat in Sydney on Tuesday. ''The conditions are really tough, but, you know, you're Australians; in Australia you got to be able to handle these conditions,'' Millman said.