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Your Call: What can be done about heat at Australian Open?

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TSN.ca Staff
1/14/2014 4:35:48 PM
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Nine players have withdrawn from the Australian Open through the first two days due to injury, including No. 12 Tommy Haas, No. 13 John Isner and No. 21 Philipp Kohlschreiber. That's five more players in two days than the entire 2013 U.S. Open in September of last year.

While the final Grand Slam at the end of a gruelling season might be expected to have more impact on the health of players, the Australian Open is taking out competitors at an alarming rate to kick off the 2014 schedule. And although none of the nine players officially retired due to the roaring heat in Melbourne, one would think it's played a part.

Heat has always been an issue for this event but it seems to be getting worse. What should be done to make things better for the players?

The average temperature in Melbourne in January - the first month of summer Down Under - is 25.9 C. The average temperature for the opening two days of the season's first Grand Slam was 36 C.

Despite any match-ending issues related to the heat, there is no shortage of players - and a ball boy - struggling to maintain their composure under the sun. But tournament organizers have not suspended any matches as yet.

"I think it's inhumane, I don't think it's fair to anybody, to the players, to the fans, to the sport, when you see players pulling out of matches, passing out," Canadian Frank Dancevic told reporters after his first-round loss in which he collapsed on the sideline during the second set. "I've played five set matches all my life and being out there for a set and a half and passing out with heat stroke, it's not normal."

The tournament has contingencies in place to deal with the heat, which was put into effect Tuesday by granting women's matches an extra 10-minute break between the second and third sets.

Stopping a match, however, is at the discretion of tournament director Wayne McKewen as part of a new rule instituted this year.

"We have to reach a minimum threshold and have a forecast that it will be sustained for a reasonable time," McKewen said in a statement. "That didn't happen. While conditions were hot and uncomfortable, the relatively low level of humidity ensured play would continue."

Organizers use the Wet Bulb Global Temperature composite, which factors in humidity and wind in an attempt to assess the conditions more accurately. On Tuesday, temperatures were expected to reach as high as 42 C.

Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena are the only two venues with retractable roofs and air conditioning, but have yet to be utilized. All other courts remain at the mercy of the heat and the forecast is calling for high 30s on Wednesday and low 40s for Thursday and Friday.

Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka said the court at Rod Laver was "like you're dancing in a frying pan."

Is it time for organizers to provide more cooling options, including stopping matches before it's too late?

Could the tournament begin earlier or later and still comfortably sit between the U.S. Open in September and the French Open in May?

What more can be done to combat the uncomfortable and potentially dangerous conditions at the Australian Open?

As always, it's Your! Call.

Frank Dancevic (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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