Heat and rain delays play havoc with Australian Open schedule

Heat and rain delays play havoc with Australian Open schedule
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Scorching heat halted outdoor matches, sent fans scurrying for shade and tested the endurance of players on a sweltering second day at the Australian Open, before rain took over to bring a stop-start evening session to a premature end on Tuesday.

Organisers invoked their Extreme Heat Policy about three hours into the day session as temperatures nudged 36 degrees Celsius (97F) and searing gusts of wind blew through the venue.

The tournament’s Heat Stress Scale, which measures radiant heat, humidity and air temperature in the shade, crossed its highest threshold of 5.0, halting 10 outdoor matches at the Grand Slam.

Play continued under the roofs of the main showcourts, however, with former world number one Andy Murray sweating it out before getting past Italian Matteo Berrettini in a five-set thriller at Rod Laver Arena.

Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, who beat Katherine Sebov 6-3 6-0 on the main showcourt before Murray’s match, said she was not too badly affected by the heat.

“I have to admit on Rod Laver Arena it was pretty nice. Obviously it was warm. It was nice to be able to walk in the shadow a little bit when you were able to serve but I didn’t feel that (it was) such warm weather,” Garcia said.

“I don’t know in the crowd there is some AC or whatever, but it felt warm, but it felt okay.”

Play on the outdoor courts resumed after three hours at 5 p.m. local time (0600 GMT) when conditions improved, but there was more frustration in store for fans and delays for the players when the rain came down.

After a brief resumption, showers returned and organisers were forced to suspended 11 matches — nine that had not started yet — leaving a packed schedule for Wednesday where more rain is expected.

The heat stoppage was not welcomed by all players, with Australian Jordan Thompson blowing his cool when his match on Court Three was halted when trailing American J.J. Wolf 6-3 1-3.

“When does that ever happen?” world number 88 Thompson barked at the chair umpire.

“I’ve been here when it’s like 45 degrees.”

The temperature was already nudging 30 degrees when matches started in the morning, and Canada’s Leylah Fernandez was glad to see off French veteran Alize Cornet in straight sets in the first match on Court 3.

“I think I did well to manage my emotions, and then especially manage the heat, try not to get too hot-headed,” Fernandez told reporters.

“So I was happy with that.”

Extreme heat is a feature of the Australian Open, held in mid-summer, with play occasionally suspended and leaving organisers with scheduling headaches.

Tennis Australia tweaked its extreme heat policy at the end of 2018 after players complained of health and safety risks under the previous system.

Novak Djokovic began his charge towards a record-extending 10th Australian Open title in cooler conditions in the evening and duly dispatched Roberto Carballes Baena.

-Reuters

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