Playing in scorching heat a recipe for disaster -- Murray
Andy Murray said he feared someone could suffer a heart attack if Australian Open organisers insist on play going ahead in 108F (42C) temperatures in Melbourne, as they did yesterday.
Murray spent only 1hr 27min on court as he beat Japan's Go Soeda 6-1 6-1 6-3 on a day when one player, Canada's Frank Dancevic, fainted after a set and a half of his match and another, Peng Shuai of China, vomited at the side of the court. A ball boy collapsed during another match and many ticket holders chose not to sit courtside because of the intensity of the heat.
Wimbledon champion Murray said the decision to allow play to go on had projected a "terrible" image of the sport.
"It's definitely something that you have to look at," he said. "As much as it's easy to say the conditions are safe, it only takes one bad thing to happen. And it looks terrible for the whole sport when people are collapsing. That's not great.
"There's been some issues in other sports with players having heart attacks."
The guidelines allow Wayne McEwen, the tournament referee, to suspend play on the outer courts and close the roofs on the main arenas when the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature -- a composite figure that accounts for factors such as humidity and wind speed -- reaches a certain level. But McEwen has declined to say what that temperature is.
A statement went out yesterday claiming that a "low level of humidity" had kept the conditions playable. Yet certain precautions were taken, including ice vests being sent to every court. A 10-minute break was also allowed for female players who were required to play a deciding set.
This was another source of confusion for Murray. "I don't know why there's different rules (for men and women)," he said. "If there's a medical reason, then I'm fine with it. If there isn't, I'm not."
When the temperature climbs to 108F, as it did around 5.0, plastic bottles start to bond with the courts and moths fall out of the sky, stone dead. The trams carrying spectators to and from Melbourne Park had to be suspended after their tracks buckled in the heat.
Dancevic was understandably furious when he regained consciousness on Court Six and was required to complete his match against Benoit Paire. Dancevic lost, though at least it was over relatively quickly, 7-6 6-3 6-4.
"I think it's inhumane," Dancevic said. "Being out there for a set and a half and passing out with heatstroke, it's not normal. Until somebody dies, they'll just keep going on with it and putting matches on in this heat."
Not every player shared the sense of alarm over the conditions. Walking on to Rod Laver Arena soon after 1.0, Roger Federer saw off wild card James Duckworth in his customarily elegant and effortless manner. He barely seemed to sweat as he breezed into the second round in 1hr 46mins and later shrugged off any concerns about the weather.
"If you've trained hard enough and you believe you can come through it, there's no reason (to quit)," he said. "If you can't deal with it, you throw in the towel."
These debates are likely to roll on, for Melbourne is forecast to keep sweltering until temperatures cool on Saturday. The conditions may have contributed to a tally of nine retirements during the first round, which equals a record set at the 2011 US Open.
Victoria Azarenka, aiming for a third successive Australian Open title, defeated 91st-ranked Johanna Larsson of Sweden, 7-6 6-2. "It's like you're dancing in a frying pan," the second seed said.
Australia's favourite enigma, Bernard Tomic, pulled out of his clash with Rafael Nadal after losing the first set, which drew a chorus of hoots and boos from a capacity crowd on Rod Laver Arena.
Tomic complained of soreness in his groin, though he should perhaps have taken a lesson from Gilles Simon, who beat Daniel Brands 16-14 in the fifth set despite having been on crutches for a sprained ankle only two days earlier. When the match finished, at about 11.0 at night, the ambient temperature still stood at nearly 90F. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
AUSTRALIAN OPEN, LIVE, EUROSPORT, 6.00