House of Payne: Melbourne roof should be deployed in Aussie heatwave
We’ve become used to the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray playing like tennis supermen over the past few years.
But the organisers of the Australian Open seem to have taken that a little far in Melbourne this week, making little allowance for temperatures over 40C in the first of this year’s majors.
They have a roof which they can pull over the show court meaning players can feel the benefits of air conditioning, but chose not to implement their “extreme heat policy”.
Yet the heat has clearly taken its toll on the players with Frank Dancevic warning conditions were “inhumane” after he fainted, and Murray expressing fears pushing players to the limit could cause one of them to have a heart attack.
Of course, this couldn’t happen at Wimbledon, but it was remarkable to think when the ninth player withdrew during the first round it Melbourne, it only equalled the record set in the second round at SW19 last summer.
Then, it wasn’t the weather which was being blamed, it was the surfaces at the All England Club with Maria Sharapova leading the criticism after injuring her knee.
The common theme between the organisers has been simple: don’t blame us.
Chief executive Richard Lewis said of claims the court surface was to blame for the rush of injuries: “We have no reason to think this is the case.”
At Melbourne, chief medical officer Tim Wood insisted: “A few players who experienced heat-related illness or discomfort, but none required significant medical intervention.”
Since “passing out” – as both a player and a ball boy did – merely counts as “heat-related illness” it seems welfare is not the top priority.
Perhaps organisers feel, since first round losers pocket a cool $30,000, they are entitled to get some extra sweat from the participants.
Getting everyone in the shade when temperatures hit 40C at Melbourne should be as automatic as putting the roof over Centre Court at Wimbledon when it pours.