Though there have been some good matches and a few relatively minor upsets, the big story thus far at the Australian Open has been the scorching heat. The extreme temperatures started on Tuesday, when temperatures touched 108 F. The blazing sun didn’t let up during Wednesday’s play either and the mercury kept rising, eventually reaching 109 F on Thursday when the tournament referee finally enacted the Extreme Heat Policy, suspended play on the outside courts, and ordered the roofs closed on Rod Laver and Hisense Arenas.
The Extreme Heat Policy dictates that play continues through completion of the current set before play is suspended or play stops for the roof to close. Unfortunately for Maria Sharapova and Karin Knapp, Thursday’s stoppage came in the middle of the decisive third set of their match and the two were forced to battle it out to the bitter end. Sharapova eventually triumphed 10-8, but only time will tell if she can recover in time for her next match.
Other players have had an even tougher time dealing with the heat. On Tuesday, Canadian Frank Dancevic more or less collapsed on court, and later admitted that he didn’t even realize he was on the ground until he came to, with medical staff around him. His opponent, Benoit Paire, came over and sat on the ground nearby, though he may have just been seeking relief in the small slice of shade as much as offering support for his weakened opponent.
China’s Peng Shuai visibly suffered on Tuesday too. During her match with Kurumi Nara of Japan, Peng fell to the ground grasping her cramping hamstring and vomiting on the court. Plenty of other players have struggled with the heat as well, looking visibly sluggish and weak as they move around the court and try to survive their matches.
The fans have been feeling the heat too. Even though the TV cameras are focused on the action, it’s easy to see how empty the stands are at many of the matches. Many fans have only been able to brave the heat to watch snippets of matches before retreating in search of shade. Many more fans have simply stayed away altogether.
The heat is expected to continue through Friday with temperatures well over 100 F. After Friday, the heat is expected to ease with temperatures dropping into the 70s and 80s through the remainder of the tournament.