The sport’s biggest stars began their Grand Slam title quest, but it was the scorching heat that stole the show on Day 2 of the Australian Open.
One player, Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic, fainted midmatch in the first set of his match against Frenchman Benoit Paire as temperatures on Tuesday reached nearly 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Until somebody dies they’re just going to keep playing matches,” the Canadian qualifier said following his straight-sets loss (via USA TODAY Sports). “For me I personally don’t think it’s fair,” he added. “I know a lot of players also don’t think it’s fair.”
In all, six players retired from their matches on Tuesday, though not necessarily from the extreme heat. American John Isner (ankle), Slovenian Polona Hercog (shoulder), Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek (neck), Australian Bernard Tomic (leg), Dutchman Robin Haase (back) and Germany’s Julian Reister withdrew from the tournament with injuries.
“It was like an oven — when I open the oven and the potatoes are done. That’s what it’s like,” Isner said (via ESPN.com).
Despite the outcry from some players, the tournament has not activated its “Extreme Heat Policy” because humidity levels were too low.
“For the heat rule to be implemented we have to reach a minimum threshold and have a forecast that it will be sustained for a reasonable time,” said Australian Open referee Wayne McKewen in a statement. “That didn’t happen.”
Ice vests were provided for all players and a 10-minute break was allowed between the second and third sets of women’s matches.
Tournament officials downplayed any health risks of the high heat.
“Of course there were a few players who experienced heat-related illness or discomfort, but none required significant medical intervention after they had completed their match,” Tim Wood, the tournament’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.
It wasn’t just the players who were affected, a ball kid was also treated for heat stress during an early match.
“I put the [water] bottle down on the court and it started melting a little bit underneath — the plastic. So you know it was warm,” former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki said (via ESPN.com). “It felt like I was playing in a sauna.”
Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus compared the conditions to “dancing in a frying pan,” after her straight-sets victory over Sweden’s Johanna Larrson.
No. 4 Andy Murray expressed concern over the extreme temperatures, which is expected to keep up throughout the week.
“As much as it’s easy to say the conditions are safe,” the Scot said (via USA TODAY Sports) after defeating Japan’s Go Soeda 6-1, 6-1, 6-4, “it only takes one bad thing to happen.”
“It looks terrible for the whole sport when people are collapsing, ball kids are collapsing, people in the stands are collapsing,” Murray added. “That’s obviously not great.”
Swiss maestro Roger Federer, however, did not share in his peer’s sentiments.
“It’s just a mental thing,” said the 17-time Grand Slam champion (via USA TODAY Sports) after dismissing Australian James Duckworth 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. “If you’ve trained hard enough your entire life or the last few weeks and you believe you can do it and come through it, there’s no reason. If you can’t deal with it, you throw in the towel.”