Australian Open & The Heat Policy
Published January 16, 2014 12:10
MELBOURNE, Australia - Play is heating up at the 2014 Australian Open - incredible first round matches bode well for the duration of the event, as more "instant classics" are likely during the next fortnight. However, the on-court action of some of the world's best players isn't the only thing that's scorching, as temperatures at Melbourne Park are expected to rise into the triple digits Fahrenheit over the next several days.
Tournament Referee Wayne McKewen took time to explain how the event determines when the "Extreme Heat Policy" takes effect and the precautions the Australian Open takes to ensure the safety of its players, volunteers, staff and fans.
"We've got a heat policy at the Australian Open," he said. "It takes into account a variety of factors... It's a wet bulb global temperature reading, a WBGT reading. With that it takes into the humidity and a couple of other factors. We have the Bureau of Meteorology on site advising us as to what the conditions will be. If they get to a certain threshold, we have different stages, and we will implement them as they progress through the day."
Some of these precautionary stages include sending ice vests for players on court, providing players a 10 minute break prior to a third set and ultimately suspending match play at the completion of current sets and closing the roofs on Rod Laver and Hisense Arenas.
"Tennis, as a sport, is relatively low risk for major heat problems compared to, in Melbourne, AFL football, compared to continuous running events," said Dr. Tim Wood, Australian Open chief medical officer. "So you're more likely to get into trouble in these events, in a 10K road race, than you are in a tennis match.
"They sit down every five to 10 minutes for every 90 seconds at change of ends, so there is chance to lose some heat at that time. Tennis by and large is a low risk sport, and that's why by and large, like cricket, we can play in these conditions and not be too concerned."
The impending heat is definitely in the minds of the players on the schedule for the next few days, including Samantha Stosur. She is used to this type of heat as a native Aussie, but knows what types of precautions to take.
"I don't usually struggle in the heat," she said. "I practiced here through December. There were some pretty hot days in Sydney. Got through those all right. Tournament play is always that little bit different. If you do all the right things, try to stay hydrated, look after yourself, hopefully by the time you get out on court, you won't have any problem. Touch wood, that will be the same for me."