Fainting, vomiting at Australian Open as temps reach 108 degrees
BY DOUGLAS ROBSON USA TODAY Sports January 14, 2014 4:46PM
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 14: Juan Martn Del Potro of Argentina feels the heat in his first round match against Rhyne Williams of the United States during day two of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Updated: January 14, 2014 4:47PM
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Oven? Torrid Tuesday? Take your pick.
The second day of the Australian Open was simply mind-numbingly hot.
A ball kid fainted. Players cramped. One vomited. Six retired, though not necessarily from frying pan-like temperatures that made sneakers sticky and water bottles melt.
Snoopy even showed up in the woozy mind of Canada’s Frank Dancevic, shortly before he blacked out and collapsed in his first round match.
Dancevic later lashed out at tournament officials, calling the day’s blistering 108-degree heat “inhumane.”
“Until somebody dies they’re just going to keep playing matches,” the Canadian qualifier said following his straight-set loss to Benoit Paire. “For me I personally don’t think it’s fair,” he added. “I know a lot of players also don’t think it’s fair.”
And it’s not going to let up.
Forecasts call for more 100-plus degree heat for the next two to three days, though perhaps not as severe as Tuesday, which peaked at 42.2 Celsius (107.9 Fahrenheit).
Tournament officials downplayed the health risks on one of the hottest day’s in tournament history.
“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.
Most matches were completed without court calls for medical attention, officials said.
Still, two stages of the tournament’s heat policy were in effect: ice vests for all players and a 10-minute break for women between a second and third set.
The tournament’s “extreme heat” policy â(euro) “ which can trigger the closure of retractable roofs and stoppage of play on outside courts -- was not activated because humidity levels were too low.
“In order for the heat rule to be implemented we have to reach a minimum threshold and have a forecast that it will be sustained for a reasonable time,” said Australian Open referee Wayne McKewen in a statement. “That didn’t happen.”
Fourth seed Andy Murray warned that it’s a fine line between safe and sorry. “As much as it’s easy to say the conditions are safe,” the Scot said after dismantling Japan’s Go Soeda 6-1, 6-1, 6-4, “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 added. “That’s obviously not great.”
Fans stayed away, too. Tuesday’s day attendance of 35,571 was down from Monday’s opening day record of 47,491.
On court, players donned ice packs, poured water over their heads and sought shade.
A ball boy required medical attention after collapsing during an early-day match.
Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki said she put a plastic water bottle down on the court and the bottom started to melt.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France said the under soles of his sneakers became soft.
On court, China’s Peng Shuai threw up in a bucket and then cramped near the end of a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 loss to Japan’s Kurumi Nara. Peng limped off the court barely able to finish.
Others described the court surface as a frying pan and the wind like “when I open the oven and the potatoes are done,” said American John Isner.
Isner, seeded 13th, pulled the plug in his match while trailing Slovakia’s Martin Klizan 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) with an ankle injury. He was one nine players to retire in the first round.
That tied the 2011 U.S. Open for most retirements in a single round at a Grand Slam tournament.
Many players took the scorching heat in stride.
Cool customer Roger Federer, who often trains in the hot desert of Dubai and began his record 57th consecutive major, had little sympathy for his peers, adding that he didn’t believe the roof over Rod Laver Arena where he played Tuesday should have been closed.
“It’s just a mental thing,” the 17-time Grand Slam winner said after outclassing Australia’s James Duckworth 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. “If you’ve trained hard enough your entire life or the last few weeks and you believe you can do it and come through it, there’s no reason. If you can’t deal with it, you throw in the towel.”
Some said the hot conditions even helped, among them Gilles Simon, who was on crutches three days ago after badly turning his ankle at the nearby Kooyong exhibition.
“It was good for what I wanted to do on court,” said the 18th seed from France after holding off Daniel Brands 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 16-14, explaining that the heat made the balls travel quicker through the air. “I needed fast condition. I didn’t want to run.”
Although Dancevic resumed his match against France’s Paire â(euro) “ not surprisingly he went on to lose 7-6 (14-12), 6-3, 6-4 â(euro) “ he said the heat was so overbearing that fitness had little bearing on how players would react to the conditions.
“I think it doesn’t have too much to do with the shape that the players are in,” he said. “It’s just the matter that some players are used to the heat, their genetics can handle the heatâ(euro) ⅛I think it’s hazardous to be out there. It’s dangerous.”