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Tennis in a sauna? Heat wave hits Australian Open

Posted: January 15, 2014 - 1:02am
Frank Dancevic of Canada is protected from the direct sunlight after collapsing during his first round match against Benoit Paire of France as temperatures topped at 43 C (108 F) at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)  Aijaz Rahi
Aijaz Rahi
Frank Dancevic of Canada is protected from the direct sunlight after collapsing during his first round match against Benoit Paire of France as temperatures topped at 43 C (108 F) at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

MELBOURNE, Australia — One player fainted mid-match as temperatures topped 42C (108F) at the Australian Open on Tuesday. Others said it felt like they were playing tennis in a sauna, or on a frying pan that sizzled their soles.

The scorching heat on Day 2 thinned crowds at Melbourne Park and prompted players to cool off between points with bags of ice on their heads or draped over their necks. Little relief was expected this week, with similar heat forecast until Friday

Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic said he started feeling dizzy in the first set of his match against Benoit Paire and then collapsed in the next set.

“I couldn’t keep my balance anymore and I leaned over the fence, and when I woke up people were all around me,” he said. After receiving medical attention, he returned to the match and lost in straight sets.

“It’s hazardous to be out there. It’s dangerous,” Dancevic said, criticizing the tournament for not having suspended play. “Until somebody dies, they’re just going to keep playing matches in this heat.”

The tournament has not yet invoked its “Extreme Heat Policy,” saying the decision is based on a quotient of air temperature, humidity and wind speed.

Officials have played down health risks, saying the majority of matches were completed without calls for medical attention.

“Of course there were a few players who experienced heat-related illness or discomfort, but none required significant medical intervention after they had completed their match,” Tim Wood, the tournament’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.

A ball girl was treated for heat stress during a morning match, and the tournament shortened rotations for the ball kids to 45-minute shifts.

Players used metaphors and anecdotes to describe how hot it was.

“I put the (water) bottle down on the court and it started melting a little bit underneath — the plastic. So you know it was warm,” former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki said. “It felt like I was playing in a sauna.”

Wozniacki was luckier than most. She had a straight sets win in the morning when it was 38C (100F).

Sometimes a hot breeze stirred the air, making things worse, said No. 13-seeded John Isner, who retired from his first-round match with a right ankle injury.

“It was like an oven — when I open the oven and the potatoes are done. That’s what it’s like,” Isner said.

Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka agreed.

“It felt pretty hot, like you’re dancing in a frying pan or something like that,” she said after advancing to the second round.

Always cool under pressure, Roger Federer avoided touching the hot ground at changeovers by sitting on his bench with his feet up on a towel. The 17-time Grand Slam winner advanced to the second round, saying for him the heat was “just a mental thing.”

No. 4 Andy Murray struck a more sober tone.

“As much as it’s easy to say the conditions are safe,” Murray said, “It only takes one bad thing to happen.”

“It looks terrible for the whole sport when people are collapsing, ball kids are collapsing, people in the stands are collapsing,” the Wimbledon champion said. “That’s obviously not great.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: NADAL JOINS FEDERER IN 2ND ROUND

MELBOURNE, Australia — After a day of searingly-hot temperatures which raised complaints from players, top-seeded Rafael Nadal advanced to the second round of the Australian Open in relatively mild conditions.

Nadal’s Australian opponent Bernard Tomic, bothered from the start by a left leg injury, retired from the match after losing the first set 6-4. Some in the capacity crowd of 15,000 at Rod Laver Arena booed lustily when Tomic indicated he could not continue.

Roger Federer, Andy Murray and defending champion Victoria Azarenka advanced earlier Tuesday amid temperatures that topped 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit).

Third-seeded Maria Sharapova joined them when she beat American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-4 in the last match of the night. Mattek-Sands double-faulted on break point in the ninth game of the second set, and Sharapova served out.

Tomic called a medical timeout after three games, and twice more before he quit.

“Unfortunately, it’s unlucky how it happened. I went for one ball and felt pain in my left leg,” Tomic said of the training injury.

Nadal said he felt for his opponent.

“I know how tough is this situation, I had the same a few years ago at this tournament,” Nadal said. “Since the beginning, I saw a little bit he had some problems on the leg.”

Federer started his record 57th consecutive Grand Slam tournament with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Australian wild-card entry James Duckworth on a day when the heat forced at least one player to black out during his match.

Azarenka played the opening match on the center court, and said it felt “like you’re dancing in a frying pan.” She had a 7-6 (2), 6-2 win over No. 91-ranked Johanna Larsson of Sweden.

Wimbledon champion Murray, on the comeback from minor back surgery in September, had a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Go Soeda of Japan and No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro rallied for a 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over U.S. qualifier Rhyne Williams.

Former No. 1-ranked Lleyton Hewitt lost in five sets to No. 24-seeded Andreas Seppi of Italy only a week after beating Federer in the Brisbane International final.

A hot, gusty breeze swirled across Melbourne Park all day, making conditions more challenging instead of cooler. The crowd for the day session was 35,571, almost 12,000 down on day one.

Players draped bags of ice over their necks and shoulders and sat under covered seats in the changeovers. They retreated into the shade at the back of the courts between points.

Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic said he blacked out during a 7-6 (12), 6-4, 6-3 loss to No. 27 Benoit Paire of France. Dancevic had treatment in the second set but continued.

“I think it’s definitely hazardous to be out there,” Dancevic said. “It’s dangerous.”

Murray agreed the conditions bordered on being dangerous.

“It’s easy to say that the conditions are safe ... but it only takes one bad thing to happen and it looks terrible for the sport when people are collapsing,” Murray said. “Whether it’s safe or not I don’t know, but you’ve got to be very careful.”

Tournament referee Wayne McKewen defended a decision not to invoke measures which would have seen outdoor matches suspended and the roofs on two arenas closed.

“While conditions were hot and uncomfortable, the relatively low level of humidity ensured that conditions never deteriorated to a point where it was necessary to invoke the ‘Extreme Heat Policy,’” McKewen said.

No. 13 John Isner, the only seeded American man in the draw, retired with an injured right ankle after losing the first two sets against Martin Klizan. Czech veteran Radek Stepanek retired with a sore neck in the fourth set against Blaz Kavcic, but said it wasn’t heat-related.

No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 Australian finalist, advanced with No. 11 Milos Raonic, No. 16 Kei Nishikori, No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 31 Fernando Verdasco.

In the longest match of the day, No. 18 Gilles Simon of France beat Daniel Brands of Germany 6-7 (4), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 16-14 in four hours, 32 minutes. Simon came into the tournament with an ankle injury sustained in a warmup tournament.

American Sloane Stephens, who beat Serena Williams in the quarterfinals here last year, defeated Yaroslava Shvedova 7-6 (1), 6-3 and 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and 19th seed was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanzka, No. 8 Jelena Jankovic and No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki advanced.

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