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Extreme Heat Beginning To Impact Crowd Attendance At Australian Open
Published January 15, 2014
ARE PLAYING CONDITIONS SAFE? ESPN's Chris Fowler noted triple-digit heat is "not strange" at the Australian Open, but it is "not easy to play tennis in it." There were nine player retirements through the first round, tying a Grand Slam record. While not all of them were "related to the heat, but, boy, it really becomes the overriding story there when it's like this down here" ("Australian Open," ESPN2, 1/14). The AFP noted Andy Murray "warned organisers were risking a serious incident by letting play continue." Murray said, "There's been some issues in other sports with, you know, players having heart attacks. I don't know exactly why that is. Or collapsing." But tournament referee Wayne McKewen said that while conditions were "'hot and uncomfortable' they were not dangerous because humidity remained low" (AFP, 1/15). Tennis Magazine's Peter Bodo said, "They're really playing with dynamite here. Players really question very strongly the wisdom of the tournament organizers." NBC's Al Roker: "I think this is reckless, really, for them to continue carrying on like this" ("Today," NBC, 1/15). USA TODAY's Douglas Robson wrote yesterday "was simply mind-numbingly hot." Robson: "A ball kid fainted. Players cramped. One vomited." Murray said, "It looks terrible for the whole sport when people are collapsing, ball kids are collapsing, people in the stands are collapsing. That's obviously not great." Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki said that she "put a plastic water bottle down on the court and the bottom started to melt" (USATODAY.com, 1/14). Former Australian Open winner Chris O'Neil in a special to the GUARDIAN wrote the "majority of matches were completed without calls for medical attention but there were also many that required treatment for serious conditions." It was "awful to see players vomiting on court and forfeiting, barely able to move let alone hit the ball with purpose" (THEGUARDIAN.co.uk, 1/15).
SOME LIKE IT HOT: Roger Federer said that the tournament "shouldn't bother with its heat policy, which allows stadium roofs to be closed in extreme conditions." Federer: "It should always stay open, honestly." The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Tom Perrotta noted the roofs "remained open" yesterday. But crowds "were thinner than usual, and many fans fled for the shade in the afternoon" (WSJ.com, 1/14). In London, Simon Briggs notes there is a "case for bringing in a sort of 'siesta' in mid-afternoon when only the show courts would be in action." Player Ivan Dodig said, "You can make a gap for a couple of hours, let’s say from 1 to 4pm. We have lights on the courts, TV can adapt a bit and it’s better for us if everybody plays the night session." Briggs: "Of course there would be significant inconvenience, especially for supporters. Yet the number of visitors to Melbourne Park has been significantly reduced by the weather in any case. You can imagine a site-wide night session creating a boisterous, party atmosphere" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 1/15). Also in London, Kevin Mitchell wrote there are "perfectly adequate regulations in place to give players the best chance of performing in safety." If they "genuinely feel they are risking their health ... there should be no shame in quitting. It's only sport." The heat was "not really the deciding factor in most cases" of players retiring (THEGUARDIAN.co.uk, 1/14).