Players demand changes to heat policy
AUSTRALIAN Open contenders Maria Sharapova, David Nalbandian and James Blake called for a review of the tournament's extreme heat policy today after battling soaring temperatures to reach the second round.
Sharapova suffered cramps and said she became "delusional" playing Frenchwoman Camille Pin, while Nalbandian branded conditions "terrible" and "disgusting" after his distressed opponent Janko Tipsarevic withdrew.
American James Blake, who is vice-president on the ATP Player Council, said it was paramount to think about the players' health.
"I'm thinking that at some point there's got to be a way to stop a match in that kind of heat," he said.
"I think at some point we're going to run into trouble where it gets serious. I'd hate to see someone become not a casualty, but someone go down, go to the emergency room, be in real tough situations over a tennis match."
Sharapova, the top seed, bore the brunt of the heat.
"It's inhumanly possible (sic) to play three hours in that kind of heat - I don't think our bodies were made to do that," she said after hanging on to beat Pin 6-3 4-6 9-7.
Temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius but Sharapova and Pin had to complete their centre court match because it was already underway when organisers invoked the extreme heat rule.
This allows play to be stopped on outside courts when the mercury touches 35 degrees Celsius but the roof cannot be closed on the Rod Laver Arena or Vodafone Arena until the match underway ends.
The Russian world No.2 said she did not agree with players having to continue in the heat on centre court, but she could not argue with the rules.
"A rule is a rule. Do I like it? Not necessarily, no," she said.
Sharapova, who delayed her post-match press conference for almost two hours to recover, said the Australian Open would be better scheduled later in the year when the weather was cooler.
However, she acknowledged that moving one of the tennis calendar's four grand slam events would be difficult as it would involve wholesale changes to the tour's schedule.
"Do you think I support that I want to go out and play three hours in this kind of heat? No. I mean that would just be stupid," she said.
"But ... it's really hard to just take a big tournament and just move it where you've got a tournament every single week.
"I think all players would prefer to play in better conditions."
Argentinian Nalbandian, one of the most durable players on the circuit, said more should be done to look after the players' welfare in the extreme heat.
"When we are playing in these conditions I think you need more help," he said.
"Okay the rules are like this, so we couldn't change it (today). But if you ask everybody, they will say that we need more help."
Nalbandian had clawed back from two sets and a break down to leading 6-7 (5/7) 4-6 7-6 (7/2) 6-0 2-1 when Tipsarevic retired.
He said more help from trainers should be allowed during changeovers to get through heat-affected matches.
"I don't know if you stop (the match) or not. That's difficult to say when to stop," he said.
"But maybe you can get more massage or more treatment or whatever you need.
"I think when the conditions are like this you start feeling very bad on the court, very bad. It's very disgusting playing like this.
"When you are there, you feel terrible in the heat. I mean, you're just thinking about getting to the changeovers and sitting for a few minutes and drink water and go on again."