Australian Open gets off to heated start

Jelena Jankovic thought her feet were on fire and Marcos Baghdatis wanted to throw up as the opening day of the Australian Open turned into a battle of the fittest.

Australia’s notorious summer sun made an unwelcome appearance on the opening day of the two-week tournament, forcing organisers to invoke their extreme heat policy within the first hour of play.

The women’s and junior players were given 10-minute breaks between the second and third sets of their matches while all players were offered ice vests and bags of ice as the temperature climbed past 37 degrees Celsius.

Jankovic, the number-one ranked woman in the world, said the ground was so hot during her first-round win over Yvonne Meusburger that she could feel the soles of her feet burning.

“One problem that I had was my feet were burning,” the Serbian said. “The soles of my shoes got so hot.

“Probably you have seen in the changeovers I was putting my feet on ice, you know, kind of trying to cool it down.”

Baghdatis, who made the Australian Open final three years ago, said the heat was so bad it made him feel sick.

“The conditions, the sun, it’s just very strong,” the Cypriot said after his win over Julien Benneteau of France.

“Just even being out there, you cannot breathe. I just wanted to puke.”

The Australian Open has long been at the mercy of the weather as it is traditionally played in late January, the hottest time of the year.

Tournament organisers have developed their own policies, in conjunction with the men’s and women’s tour officials, to protect the players from the worst of the conditions.

The extreme heat policy is applied at the referee’s discretion, allowing for longer breaks between sets and the use of ice vests.

In severe cases, when the temperature climbs above 40 degrees Celsius, officials can stop play altogether and order the closure of the roofs on the showcourts.—Reuters


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