Friday 24 November 2017

Dodig: I feared I might die in heat

"I think we deserve that somebody listens to the voice of the players."

Simon Briggs

There are moments when, even for a professional athlete, the result of a match can seem trivial. Ivan Dodig, the Croatian tennis player, experienced one of them yesterday.

The clock was moving towards 2.0pm, and the temperature was climbing towards 107F (41.5C), when Dodig retired from his match against Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur after two hours 22 minutes, with the score at 6-4 6-4 3-6 1-4. Half an hour later Dodig lay writhing on the floor in agony, with all his muscles screaming at him.

"I was thinking, I could maybe even die here," he said. Dodig had gone into a full-body cramp, which happens when salt levels in the body become depleted. He was the only player unable to finish his match, but not the only one to suffer, as Melbourne Park broiled in the sun for the second successive day.

Temperatures are forecast to be similarly high over the next two days, with the added concern of strong winds tomorrow that will bring a risk of bushfires.

"We players should start to talk about this for the future," Dodig said. "Because many people in the locker room say they (tournament organisers) will only stop when somebody dies on the court and I would not like to see that happen in this sport.

"I think we deserve that somebody listens to the voice of the players. You can make a gap for a couple of hours; let's say from 1.0 to 4.0. We have lights on the courts, TV can adapt a bit and it's better for us if we play everybody in the night session."

Dodig was not the only man to complain about the heat. Florian Mayer, who won the day's only five-set match 6-4 3-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 against Mikhail Youzhny, suggested: "It's dangerous to play."

Defending champion Novak Djokovic ensured a short stay in the high temperatures by winning the first eight games on his way to a 6-0 6-4 6-4 victory over Leonardo Mayer.

The second seed said: "I thought yesterday was warmer than today. But still the conditions were not easy."

Like Roger Federer on Tuesday, Djokovic argued that dealing with the conditions was more about having the right mindset than physical limitations, saying: "We all were aware of how the weather was going to look these couple of days. Everybody was talking about 40 degrees plus. I prepared myself mentally for that. It's not just physically. Mentally you need to be tough enough to not give up and not think about what the conditions can do to you."

Pat Rafter's comeback lasted only one match as he and Lleyton Hewitt were beaten in the first round of the men's doubles. The 41-year-old, now Australia Davis Cup captain, retired in 2001 and his return had been a secret until the draw was made on Sunday.

He was far from disgraced alongside great friend Hewitt, but South African Raven Klaasen and American Eric Butorac were the party poopers on Hisense Arena as they came through 6-4 7-5.

Elsewhere, Ross Hutchins, who missed the whole of 2013 after contracting Hodgkin lymphoma, made a fairytale return in the doubles with Colin Fleming, beating Marinko Matosevic and Michal Przysiezny 4-6 6-4 6-0 defeat. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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