Australian Open 2014: Melbourne meltdown forces ATP to consider rule change
The women's tour has a heat rule making provision for a 10-minute break between second and third sets in extreme conditions
The Association of Tennis Professionals, which runs the men's tour, is to discuss whether it needs to adopt a heat policy in the wake of the gruelling conditions that have dominated the first week of the Australian Open.
The temperature here peaked at a scorching 42.2C and players were struggling again – although there was no repeat of the really distressing and dramatic scenes from earlier in the week – and some competitors feel it is time to bring in guidelines.
Unlike the women's tour, which since 1992 has had a heat rule making provision for a 10-minute break between second and third sets in extreme conditions, the ATP has no such clearly defined policy. The four Grand Slam tournaments have their own rules, but the Australian Open has been happy to adopt the WTA's heat rule and would probably be open to following any ATP initiative.
Although there have been times, in Cincinnati in August for example, when heat and humidity can be very high, most ATP tournaments in venues susceptible to excessive temperatures do not schedule matches at the hottest time of the day. Playing best-of-three-set matches rather than best-of-five is also less demanding.
Chris Kermode, the ATP's new executive chairman and president, told the BBC that there were divergent opinions among the players about the heat rules here but added: "We need to make sure that players are very clear when they step out on to the court about what temperature means the roof goes on or a game is stopped."
The top players have coped better than most with the heat here and have not been complaining. "Just deal with it, because it's the same for both players," Roger Federer said. David Ferrer offered a similar opinion. "I prefer when it's not too hot, but I think everybody prefers that," the Spaniard said. "But it's the same for everybody. I know it's always hot every year here in Australia."
Andy Roddick, who retired two years ago, was blunt when asked his opinion about the heat. "It's funny, the guys who have the reputation for being prepared aren't the guys keeling over," the American said in a conference call to promote the PowerShares Series in the United States. "You're never going to see Roger outwardly showing heat. You're not going to see Rafa [Nadal] doing it. You're not going to see Novak [Djokovic] any more... you're not going to see him doing it.
"Frankly, I hated it when they closed the roof. I felt like it was a different tennis tournament once they put it indoors. They do have a system in place if they deem it's too hot. Do we need to make extreme things because guys are struggling in the heat? I don't know. Personally, I don't think so. I think as athletes we push our bodies to do things that aren't normal and, frankly, that's what we get paid for. I can't feel it.
"When you play there, it's brutal. It feels like you're playing in a hairdryer, but that's all part of it. Each Slam presents its own unique set of challenges and you kind of have to attack it accordingly."
Roddick added: "Frankly, I don't know that Australia is as extreme as Florida in the summer or the hottest days in Cincinnati in the summer."
Poland's Jerzy Janowicz said he felt near to collapsing in the heat during his 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 defeat by Florian Mayer, but admitted that was largely because he had been unable to train hard because of a foot injury.
China's Li Na survived more than two and a half hours in the sun before completing a 1-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory over Lucie Safarova, who had a match point. Li's compatriot Zheng Jie complained of dizziness and breathing problems during her 6-2, 6-4 defeat by Australia's Casey Dellacqua, but her opponent has been enjoying this week's heat.
Dellacqua, who is the last Australian left in the singles competition after Sam Stosur was knocked out by Ana Ivanovic, said: "I love it. It makes my body feel good. It would be nice if it would be a bit hotter for the next week. I just grew up in this weather in Perth. We had summers like this all the time."
The temperature had dropped to 22C by the time Djokovic completed the last victory of the day shortly after midnight, though the roof over Rod Laver Arena was closed because of rain. The world No 2 beat Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 to earn a fourth-round meeting with Italy's Fabio Fognini. Djokovic, who has not lost a match anywhere since last year's US Open final, is chasing a fourth successive Australian Open title.
Tomas Berdych went through after a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Damir Dzumhur, who came through qualifying to become the first Bosnian to make the main draw of a Grand Slam event.
Dzumhur, supported again by a group of noisy Bosnian supporters, was congratulated by Djokovic when he came off the court. "He told me that one day he hopes he will play against me and he will see me in the big tournaments again," Dzumhur said.
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