Aussie Open too hot to handle
PLAYERS fainted and vomited, and a ball boy collapsed as the Australian Open boiled in one of the hottest days in its history yesterday, prompting complaints and keeping fans away in droves.
Temperatures of 42.2 deg C, hot enough to melt plastic bottles on the rubberised courts, made for a punishing day for the players, with some incensed that their matches went ahead.
Canada's Frank Dancevic lashed out at the "inhumane" playing conditions, after he felt dizzy and then blacked out. He needed treatment during his first-round defeat to France's Benoit Paire.
"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," he said.
"I've played five-set matches all my life and being out there for a set and a half and passing out with heatstroke, it's not normal."
Chinese player Peng Shuai cramped and vomited during her loss to Japan's Kurumi Nara, and also received a violation for time-wasting at a moment when she said she was unable to walk.
"I had no energy, I couldn't run, I couldn't serve," she said, blaming the heat for her defeat.
Officials said that, because humidity remained low, they chose not to invoke emergency rules which allow them to halt play and close the roofs of the centre and second court.
The Australian Open, held at the height of the Melbourne summer, is notorious for its heat. Temperatures above 40 deg C are expected for most of the week.
To cope, players draped themselves in ice towels and guzzled water during the changeovers as temperatures, already at 35 deg C before play even started, rose steadily until the early evening.
"It felt pretty hot, like you're dancing in a frying pan or something like that," said defending women's champion Victoria Azarenka. "I don't think anybody wants to go outdoors right now."
Daniel Gimeno-Traver helped a ball boy to his chair after he collapsed during the Spaniard's four-set loss to Canadian Milos Raonic.
And former women's world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki said that when she put her water bottle down on the court, the bottom started melting. "Geez, it feels hot out there," said the Dane, who headed straight for an ice bath after her win over Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino.
Empty seats were prevalent as many fans stayed away, perhaps knowing how bad conditions have been in the past.
In 2009, the hottest edition on record, the average daily temperature was 34.7 deg C. But officials have played down any health risks, pointing out that no player has died from dehydration on a tennis court.