Australian Tennis Tournament Invokes ‘Extreme Heat Policy’ To Suspend Outdoor Play

CREDIT: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France cools down with ice pack on his head in their third round match against Kevin Anderson of South Africa at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014.

“It’s definitely hot, but you have to be ready to play,” Serena Williams told ESPN after her win at the Australian Open on Friday.

The day before, no one had to be ready. Because of extreme heat, Day 4 of the 2014 Australian Open was halted — and not before Canadian player Frank Dancevic reportedly hallucinated and passed out on the court from the heat.

“I was dizzy from the middle of the first set and then I saw Snoopy and I thought, ‘Wow Snoopy, that’s weird,’ Dancevic told the Guardian, adding that he thought forcing players to play through the heat was “inhumane.”

“Having players with so many problems and complaining to the tournament that it’s too hot to play, until somebody dies, they’re just keep going on with it and putting matches on in this heat,” Dancevic said. “I personally don’t think it’s fair and I know a lot of players don’t think it’s fair.”

So, for a brief moment on Thursday, players didn’t have to play. Just before 2 p.m., officials evoked the the “Extreme Heat Policy,” effectively suspending all matches on outside courts until early evening and requiring the closure of the retractable roofs at two arenas.

Though it may seem like a rare event, this was not the first time in a long time that the policy had been evoked. In 2009 play had been halted for two days when temperatures reached as high 113 degrees.

Australia set heat records in the spring of 2013, and its Bureau of Meteorology has said that the previous year was the hottest since records began in 1910. Now it has started 2014 with another record-breaking heat wave — inland, temperatures reached 122 degrees last week — that is affecting the nation’s signature international sporting event.

While the impacts of the record-breaking heat are painfully apparent to Australians, since the election of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in September, those in power have chosen to pretend the problem doesn’t exist. As prime minister, Abbott has abandoned the country’s emissions target, made efforts to repeal Australia’s carbon emissions trading scheme and dissolved the country’s climate commission.