Current weather forecasts in Melbourne for the Australian Open are "calling for triple-digit highs over the next several days," with temperatures by some reports "topping out at an egg-frying 107 degrees Fahrenheit," according to Douglas Robson of USA TODAY. Once the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature "extreme heat threshold is reached a number of precautions kick in." Play can be "halted at the tournament referee's discretion" and the domed courts -- Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena -- can "have their retractable roofs closed before or during play." Female players are "allowed a 10-minute break between the second and third sets of a singles match if the WBGT reading exceeds 30.1 before the start of a match." Even before it "hits that level, other policies, such as ice wraps for players on court, come into play." Melbourne's "wide fluctuations in heat" could create "competitive imbalances for those that happen to play at night or in the roofed stadiums" (USATODAY.com, 1/13). ESPN’s Chris Fowler said it will be "interesting to see what will happen in the coming days." Fowler: "Will the Wet Bulb Index be enough to close the roofs? The combination of heat and humidity could be close, heat alone isn’t enough to do it." ESPN’s Pam Shriver said, “I would have been politicking a couple of days ago to play first on Monday morning 11:00. This could be the best conditions for a week down here, especially in the day.” Tennis player Sam Querrey: "I was lucky to play on Monday here. It was probably 15 degrees cooler than it’s going to be the next four days. But, just hydrate a lot, do a good job of taking care of my body with ice baths and things like that” ("Australian Open," ESPN2, 1/12).
KEEPING AN EVEN KEEL? ESPN's Shriver reported several players have complained that they "see a slope, feel a slope" on Margaret Court Arena, and observers "can clearly see it." Fowler said, "Let’s be clear, the court is perfectly level. They haven’t changed the court at all since last year. Just a psychological thing or a visual trick?" But ESPN's Mary Joe Fernandez responded, “You say the court hasn’t changed. Everything else has changed. I can’t imagine they haven’t changed the court surface, and it clearly looks, from my angle and from what the players are saying, uphill is this end." Fowler: "If that court isn’t level, if one end is higher than the other, they need to launch an investigation. That’s just inconceivable. ... You can go to the hardware store, you get a level and you place it on the court. It’s pretty easy to see if there’s a slope" (ESPN2, 1/12).
NEW LOOK: In Melbourne, James Campbell reported a US$304M makeover of Melbourne Park will include a footbridge and "a new 5,000-seat outdoor show court." Victoria Premier Denis Napthine yesterday said that the second stage of the upgrade "will see the new footbridge create a western entrance to Melbourne Park." Rod Laver Arena will have a seating capacity of 15,000 and Hisense Arena 10,500 "when the redevelopment is complete." Margaret Court Arena "will have increased" from 6,000 seats to 7,500, and the show courts will seat 11,000. The redevelopment also will feature "a new central terrace and roof; enlarged garden square, upgraded bathroom, food and beverage amenities, and a new media centre" (Melbourne HERALD SUN, 1/11). ESPN’s Chris Fowler addressed the upcoming round of renovations to Margaret Court Arena and said, “You just see the top of the picture where the roof comes into play. There are some concrete rows which will be filled with seats next year. Not used as seating this time, but a very weird atmosphere inside the court. Players will be focusing right on the blue lines. But above it, it’s a very different feeling.” Fernandez: “I think it also gives it a bigger feel” (ESPN2, 1/12).