Tournament organisers introduce extreme heat policy for Australian Open
Men competing in singles games will get 10-minute breaks if temperatures get too hot
Gael Monfils: said he had suffered a “small heat-stroke” for 40 minutes during his match against Djokovic at last year’s Australian Open in Melbourne. Photograph: Dean Lewons/EPA
Men competing in singles games at the Australian Open will get 10-minute breaks if the forthcoming Grand Slam’s notorious heat reaches hazardous levels.
Tournament chiefs have unveiled an extended Extreme Heat Policy designed to protect the well-being of the world’s best tennis players when they meet in the next few weeks.
Temperatures soared towards 40 degrees in the shade at the 2018 edition of the competition in Melbourne, Victoria, prompting concerns that competitors were at risk of heat stroke.
The mid-Australian summer open’s tournament director, Craig Tiley, said the players’ well-being was their “utmost priority” and an overhauled “heat stress scale” had been developed by Tennis Australia medical personnel and experts at the University of Sydney.
“The AO Heat Stress Scale ranges from one to five with specific recommendations associated with each step of the scale – one denoting temperate playing conditions and five the suspension of play,” he said.
“Under the updated policy, 10-minute breaks can also be introduced into men’s singles matches for the first time.”
The scale accounts for the physiological variances between adults, wheelchair and junior athletes.
It also takes into account air temperature, radiant heat (the strength of the sun), humidity and wind speed, which can affect a player’s ability to disperse heat from their body.
A network of devices will measure the climate factors at points across the Melbourne Park site.
Under the updated policy, the Tournament Referee will allow a 10-minute break between the second and third sets in both women’s and junior singles matches and a 15-minute break in wheelchair singles matches when a four is recorded on the scale prior to or during the first two sets of the match.
In the men’s singles a 10-minute break will be allowed after the third set when a four is recorded on the scale prior to or during the first-three sets of the match.
If a five is recorded on the scale, the referee can suspend the start of matches on outside courts and all matches in progress continuing until the end of an even number of games in that set, or completion of the tiebreak, before play will be suspended.
Monfils said he had a “small heat-stroke” for 40 minutes of his second-round clash with Djokovic in January, played in temperatures approaching 40C, warning: “We took a risk.”
His opponent added: “I think there is a limit, and that is a level of tolerance between being fit and being in danger in terms of health. It was right at the limit.”