Aussie Open boils over
EXTREME heat forced organisers to suspend play for several hours at the Australian Open yesterday, as temperatures soared to 42 deg C for a third day.
Officials called a halt just before 2pm, sending players off courts and closing the roofs of the two main arenas. The rare shutdown was the first in five years, and follows near-record heat in Melbourne that buckled tramlines and sparked 1,000 bushfires in the surrounding state.
The full schedule did not resume till 6pm, with the start of a busy evening as players worked their way through a packed agenda of second-round singles matches plus doubles.
Some competitors have been furious about playing in the oven-like heat, with several falling ill during their matches.
Canada's Frank Dancevic said he hallucinated, seeing a vision of cartoon dog Snoopy before blacking out, while Ivan Dodig said he was afraid that he was about to die after suffering severe cramps and retiring after four sets.
America's Varvara Lepchenko was the latest victim yesterday - she had her pulse and blood pressure checked, and was rubbed down with ice by staff during a medical timeout.
Maria Sharapova was also unlucky, with the halt announced during her third set against Karin Knapp. That meant she could not come off until it was over, and the third set went to 10-8, lasting nearly two hours.
Afterwards, the Russian star questioned the policy of making players finish their sets and said that the organisers should be more open about when and why play will be suspended.
"I mean, I think the question I have is, no one really knows what the limit is," she said. "Not the players, the trainers themselves, when you ask them when the roof will be closed."
Attendances have dropped sharply since Monday's first-day record of 47,491. On Wednesday, the figure was about a third lower, at 32,911.
Melbourne Park's outdoor stadiums took on the surreal air of waiting rooms yesterday as spectators fanned themselves and sucked ice lollies while waiting for the action to restart. Only a small crowd braved the venue's unshaded garden area to watch the big-screen broadcast of home hope Thanasi Kokkinakis taking on world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the closed Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal crushed the 17-year-old in straight sets (6-2, 6-4, 6-2) to reach the third round. Roger Federer was also in fine form, reeling off a straight-sets win over Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic in 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4).