A record-breaking heatwave is causing “inhumane” conditions for players at the Australian Open, Canadian Frank Dancevic said Tuesday, when temperatures in Melbourne reached 108 degrees. Dancevic collapsed on the court during the second set of his first-round match with Frenchman Benoît Paire. Dancevic completed the match, which he lost in straight sets, but said he passed out for more than a minute while receiving medical attention during the second set delay.
“I think it’s inhumane, I don’t think it’s fair to anybody, to the players, to the fans, to the sport, when you see players pulling out of matches, passing out,” Dancevic said. “I’ve played five set matches all my life and being out there for a set and a half and passing out with heat stroke, it’s not normal.”
“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. I personally don’t think it’s fair and I know a lot of players don’t think it’s fair.”
Other players, including John Isner and Caroline Wozniacki, complained about the heat too. “It felt pretty hot, like you’re dancing in a frying pan or something like that,” Victoria Azarenka, the defending women’s champion, said. Chinese player Peng Shuai vomited during her first-round match and said she “had no energy” midway through. “So it’s impossible to play tennis like this,” she said. A ball boy collapsed during the fourth set of a first-round match between Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Milos Raonic and had to be removed from the court for treatment.
Six players called it quits before the completion of their first round matches, though none cited the heat as a reason. The players won’t get any immediate relief: temperatures are expected to remain above 100 degrees through Friday.
The heat’s effects go beyond tennis. Commuter rail tracks buckled on the line that carries fans to the Open, meaning fans had to walk to Melbourne Park in extreme temperatures. The heat has forced other delays on public transportation and has caused power outages that have disrupted traffic patterns as well. More than 7,000 homes around Melbourne were without power Tuesday thanks to heat-related blackouts. If that wasn’t enough, fires have broken out across the city.
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.
Open officials instituted “extreme heat” provisions that allowed longer breaks between sets during women’s matches, but they so far have argued, contra Dancevic, that conditions haven’t been bad enough to halt play, and temperatures are expected to drop some 30 degrees this weekend. That hotter summers and extreme heat waves are becoming the norm Down Under, though, should concern Australian officials and tournament organizers, as they could start to affect the tournament the same way warmer temperatures caused by climate change have already had an impact on sports like football, surfing, and professional sporting leagues in America and other parts of the world.