Oppressive heat brought much of the Australian Open to a standstill midway through the second day of tennis at Melbourne Park, with played halted on all outside courts for almost three hours.
Matches were stopped at just after 2pm EADT on Tuesday as the temperature in Melbourne climbed to 36 degrees and officials enacted the tournament’s extreme heat policy.
“The AO heat stress scale has reached five and play will be suspended on the outside courts,” Tennis Australia said.
“This means play continues until the end of an even number of games or the completion of a tie break. No new matches will be called to court. Play on outdoor practice courts is also suspended.”
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The roof was closed on the main show courts, Rod Laver Arena, John Cain Arena and Margaret Court Arena, where play was able to continue.
The Australian Open’s approach to heat has developed in line with medical research on the effects of extreme heat on the body.
The heat stress scale was introduced four years ago and features five stages, with lower stages prioritising increased hydration and cooling strategies.
[ Tournament organisers introduce extreme heat policy for Australian Open ]
Earlier on Tuesday, the scale reached stage four, which meant singles players are granted a 10-minute break – women between the second and third set, and men between the third and fourth set.
As soon as it ticked over into stage five, play was suspended, as was the case for Australian Jordan Thompson, whose first-round match with American JJ Wolf was stopped midway through the second set. He had lost the first set 6-3 and was leading 3-1 in the second, before securing the second set after play resumed at about 5pm.
Before the heat stress scale was implemented, guidelines around playing in the heat were less clear, something pointed out by Novak Djokovic, who confessed he was “right at the limit” of his physical and mental endurance after beating Gaël Monfils in health-threatening 39 degrees heat in 2018, and pleaded for the sport’s administrators to show more compassion for players. – Guardian