More heatstroke at Australian Open but doctors show little sympathy to players
AUSTRALIAN Open medics hit back at complaints from stricken tennis stars yesterday, insisting humans were well equipped to compete in 42C heat as they had evolved “chasing antelope on the plains of Africa”.
The riposte came after a third successive day of controversy over the tournament’s refusal to halt play despite further cases of heatstroke as temperatures in Melbourne soared to new heights.
Chiefs did finally implement their extreme heat policy for the first time this week, enforcing a four-hour break on uncovered courts and closing roofs on the two main arenas, but not until 2pm local time.
By then Britain’s Jamie Murray had suffered heatstroke during his doubles victory, while former champion Maria Sharapova said she had come close to fainting during her second-round triumph.
Jamie’s brother Andy Murray enjoyed cooler but more humid conditions for his night-time win over French qualifier Vincent Millot, and called the sweltering conditions “very, very hard”.
Yesterday’s complaints followed days of warnings from leading players, some of whom fainted and said they feared for their lives – yet tournament chiefs remained unapologetic.
“We evolved on the high plains of Africa chasing antelope for eight hours under these conditions,” said chief medical officer Dr Tim Wood.
“There will be some players who complain and no-one is saying it is terribly comfortable to play out there, but, from a medical perspective, we know that man is well adapted to exercising in the heat.”
Canadian Frank Dancevic called conditions “inhumane” on Tuesday after he passed out on court during a first-round defeat, but Wood added: “Whether it is humane or not is a whole other issue.”
Jamie Murray had two hours of treatment after he and partner John Peers beat Australians Matt Reid and Luke Saville in straight sets.
Andy Murray stuttered but finished with a flourish against Millot, winning the last 23 points uninterrupted to fight back from 5-1 down in the third set. He completed a 6-2, 6-2, 7-5 win just before midnight.
“I didn’t really care about winning 23 points in a row,” he said. “I wanted to win the match. I’m glad I finished it there, because it was very, very hard conditions. I just was glad to get off. I’m still pouring with sweat.”
The Scot, seeded fourth, faces Spanish 26th seed Feliciano Lopez in round three tomorrow.
Murray had the advantage of a later match, hours after temperatures peaked for the week at 43C. That caused officials to trigger their extreme heat policy, having refused to do so on Tuesday and Wednesday despite numerous complaints and a grand slam record-equalling nine withdrawals during the first round.
Belgian 18th seed Kirsten Flipkens Tweeted: “FINALLY!!!! Play suspended because of the heat... Heat policy should have been in two days ago already.. #burning #crazy #nothealthy.”
Third seed Sharapova blasted organisers after a gruelling three-and-a-half-hour win over Italian Karin Knapp.
“We have never received any emails or warnings about the weather or what to do,” she said. “Actually, I did receive one, I think, while I was in the ice bath a few minutes ago. I was like, ‘That’s a little too late’.”
American Varvara Lepchenko also voiced criticism after she needed treatment with ice-packs during a defeat to Romania’s Simona Halep: “It’s very dangerous if someone has some sort of conditions with their heart.”
HOW ROW UNFOLDED
Canadian Frank Dancevic calls conditions “inhumane” after fainting during his first-round loss, saying of organisers: “Until somebody dies, they just keep going on with it.”
Caroline Wozniacki complains of plastic water bottle melting on court
Ball boy treated after fainting but calls to halt play rejected by officials
Croatian Ivan Dodig retires from his match and warns: “I was thinking I might even die. It’s not acceptable.”
Serena Williams says she has been sleepless due to “paranoia” of being dehydrated as tournament chiefs again ignore pleas for postponement
Britain’s Jamie Murray treated for heatstroke after doubles match
Extreme heat policy finally applied, enforcing four-hour halt on uncovered courts, but chief doctor tells moaning players: “We evolved on the plains of Africa chasing antelope. Man is well adapted to exercising in the heat.”