Maria Sharapova Wants 'Unplayable Conditions' Defined After Three Hour-Plus Victory
Maria Sharapova has "called for tennis officials to clear confusion over what qualifies as unplayable conditions after she was forced to play" in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) at the Australian Open, according to Michael Chammas of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The heat "forced matches to be suspended" at 1:52pm on Thursday after tournament referee Wayne McEwen used his "discretionary powers to stop play after the wet-bulb temperature reached a certain level and was forecast to remain there for at least an hour." Despite the policy being applied, Sharapova and Italian Karin Knapp were forced to continue for 50 minutes "before the Russian claimed a 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 victory in three hours, 28 minutes." Sharapova: "There is no way of getting around the fact that the conditions were extremely difficult, and have been for the last few days. It's a tough call. I think the question I have is no one really knows what the limit is. Not the players or the trainers themselves when you ask them when will the roof be closed. No one actually knows what that number is in comparison to humidity or the actual heat" (SMH, 1/17). In Sydney, Margie McDonald reported Sharapova's "other gripe was that the Rod Laver Arena roof should have been closed after the second set in her match, or after a fourth set in any men's match, because the third and fifth sets respectively have no tiebreaker." Sharapova said, "If you know that there is no tiebreaker, officials can't just rely on maybe the set will go fast and the set will be over and we will be off court, because we have no tiebreaker in that last set. So that's what you have to consider." The Herald Sun "measured the on-court temperature with its own thermometer and recorded 52C (126F) on the rubberised Plexicushion surface." The "thermometer then broke" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/17).
DECISION CORRECT, OVERDUE: Also in Sydney, Richard Hinds opined Andy Murray had "warned on Tuesday that someone might have a heart attack if Australian Open officials continued to insist players toil away" in the 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit) heat. So "lacking in charisma is the Scot that, should he be the first player to expire, it could take spectators some time to notice." But the "straight talking Murray made a good point." Because tennis is "only a game," the decision to "protect the health of players, officials and spectators should have been easy." Although, a "few sceptics had muttered, slightly less easy when you are beholden to TV paymasters and trying to keep the turnstiles clicking." Common sense "finally prevailed on Thursday." Fortunately this "was not prompted by the death of some overwrought clay-courter." Actually, other other than the "reading of the dubious and vaguely rude sounding 'wet bulb globe,' it was difficult to tell why the policy was enacted." Perhaps they had "run out of ice vests or the air-conditioner in the office of tournament director Wayne McEwen's had gone on the blink" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 1/17).
'MISSING COMMON SENSE': SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Jon Wertheim commented, "For all the jokes and throwaway lines that flew around Melbourne Park earlier in the week, Thursday turned gravely serious. In kiln-like conditions, players took the court at 11 a.m. It was the hottest day yet, which is saying something: Triple-digit temperatures with no wind or cloud cover, temperatures on court eclipsing 120 degrees. These weren't tennis matches so much as they were physical battles, sadistic tests of the outer limits of human endurance." Wertheim also took organizers to task, writing, "As devastating as the heat has been, the reaction by the sport's officials has been comparably brutal. Double-speak. Vagueness. An absence of common sense. This was tennis -- fractious and fractured -- at its worst" (SI, 1/16).