Red alert as heat on stars to play in furnace
Feeling the heat ... Bernard Tomic yesterday. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Sydney International tournament directors will consider forcing competitors to play through the extreme 43 degree temperatures forecast for Sydney on Tuesday.
Bernard Tomic and Marinko Matosevic, scheduled to take centre court after 6pm, will escape the full brunt of the heatwave that is expected to hit Sydney.
However, there will be serious concerns for the health of women's world No. 14 Maria Kirilenko and men's No. 6 seed Radek Stepanek, who have been handed the arduous task of playing a singles match at 11am before having to back up for a doubles match when the mercury is anticipated to hit its peak.
Unfazed by the expected scorching temperature ... Marinko Matosevic. Photo: Sasha Woolley
While Matosevic, the only Australian male inside the world top 50, will benefit from his twilight scheduling, he has urged tournament officials to let play go on.
''I'm looking forward to it. I want it to be as hot as possible tomorrow,'' he said. ''I don't want them to put the heat rule on. I want it to be as hot as possible. I've had a really good off season, and I want to see where I'm at. I definitely can handle it. I want it to reach record temperatures.
''It was hot over in Perth as well, so [Bernard] will be used to it as well. I just really want to test myself ahead of the Australian Open. I hope it reaches 50 degrees.''
Under the Women's Tennis Association's extreme weather condition rule, a 10-minute break is allowed between the second and third set, if requested by one of the players, once the heat stress index reaches 30.1 degrees or the ground temperature hits 34 degrees .
However, there is no such precaution for the men, leaving the safety of the male competitors in the hands of tournament officials.
Tournament directors will use a formula (Wet Bulb Globe Temperature), often used in the military, that takes into consideration the humidity, air temperature, court temperature, wind speed and radiation to deem whether conditions are safe enough for play at Sydney Olympic Park.
Tournament officials reaffirmed their stance in a statement on Monday night, outlining their intention to monitor conditions closely throughout the day.
''Should weather factors such as temperature, humidity, wind or precipitation threaten to adversely affect the tournament, organisers may introduce a mitigation strategy that could include adjustments to the match play program,'' the officials said.
''This is a dynamic process involving timely consultation with key advisers and officials having regard for all the circumstances and is not solely based on an arbitrary temperature threshold or the onset of a prescribed meteorological condition.''
The last time an Australian Open match was suspended because of the heat was in 2009, when it hit 42 degrees midway through the quarter-final between Serena Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The match was suspended to allow the roof to come over Rod Laver Arena, but Kuznetsova, who takes on Caroline Wozniacki on Tuesday, does not want to see play brought to a halt again.
''They stopped the match [in 2009] and closed the roof,'' she said. ''I don't think it's even allowed to stop the match. Only my match stopped to close the roof but the others kept playing. I don't think it's a good thing to stop the match. It totally changes the match.
''I played against [Angie] Schiavone one day and it was extremely hot but we still played four hours and 44 minutes and still nobody stopped it.''
While the women are almost certain to benefit from an extended break between the second and third sets, the WTA has no rule that suspends play indefinitely.
Heat stress monitor readings are taken 30 minutes before match play, at noon and just before the last match, and Australian safety regulations are also being taken into consideration.
If play is suspended for more than 30 minutes, the players will be allowed a five-minute warm-up once they return to the court.
Tomic wasn't too worried about the scorching weather predicted for Tuesday. ''It's going to be hard,'' he said after training on Monday. ''Hopefully it doesn't get too hot, and I can stay hydrated.''
Former world No. 1 Wozniacki seemed unfazed about the heat when asked about it on Sunday after her first round victory against Urszula Radwanska.
''Lovely, I can get a tan and my feet can burn a little bit,'' she joked. ''But it's similar for everyone. You just need to focus on what you are doing out there and not focus on the heat. You know it can get really hot here in Australia sometimes.''