Friday, December 19, 2014

No reprieve at hot Aussie Open

MELBOURNE, Australia—There were clearly varying degrees of opinion on what constitutes extreme heat after a scorching second day at the Australian Open.
Roger Federer thinks it’s a “very mental thing”—he’s learned to deal with the heat across a record 57-consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, winning an unprecedented 17 men’s majors.

The Swiss star was as cool as usual in his straight-set opening win over Australian wild-card entry James Duckworth earlier today—his first under the supervision of new coach Stefan Edberg.
But he had more shade on centre court than there was out on Court 6, where the first two matches ended in injury retirements and Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic collapsed during the third.
Dancevic got up and finished, losing 7-6 (12), 6-3, 6-4 to No. 27 Benoit Paire.
He later said the conditions were “inhumane” and “definitely hazardous.”
Andy Murray agreed after his 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Go Soeda of Japan, advising officials not to be too cavalier with the rules.
“It looks terrible for the whole sport when people are collapsing, ball kids are collapsing, people in the stands are collapsing,” the Wimbledon champ said.
At the end of the day, half of the 128 players in each of the men’s and women’s draws were outsted.
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal and No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro joined Federer and Murray as players advancing in a loaded top side of the men’s draw.
Two-time defending champ Victoria Azarenka also advanced today, describing playing on the Rod Laver Arena surface as “like you’re dancing in a frying pan.”
Former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki chimed in with claims that her plastic water bottle was melting on Margaret Court Arena.
By the time four-time major winner Maria Sharapova beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-4 just before midnight, the temperature had dipped from a blazing 42 C (108 F) to a relatively cool 30 C (86 F).
The hot wind that blew all day across Melbourne Park offered no reprieve at the peak of the heat.
Nor did Australian Open organizers—opting against suspending matches because they said the humidity level was relatively low.
Tim Wood, the chief medical officer at the Australian Open, conceded players experienced “heat-related illness or discomfort.”
“[But] none required significant medical intervention after they had completed their match,” he added
Tournament director Craig Tiley endorsed those sentiments.
A ball girl was treated for heat stress during a morning match, and the tournament shortened rotations for the ball kids to 45-minute shifts and added extra precautions.
Players slung long bags of ice over their necks and heads, and retreated to the shade whenever possible.
And so did the most diehard of fans—the crowd was almost 12,000 down from Day 1.
There’s more heat in store for this week, with maximum temperatures forecast to remain above 40 degrees C (104 degrees F).
That’s not surprising. It’s summer in Australia—the Earth’s driest inhabited continent.

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