Australian Open: Andy Murray warns of pushing players to the limit in 40-degree heat after coming through first round against Go Soeda
Players faint and vomit on scorching day at Australian Open but tournament doctor insists there is no cause for alarm
Andy Murray emerged unscathed after playing through the hottest part of a scorching day here at the Australian Open but believes tournament organisers should reconsider their rules about playing in extreme heat.
"You’ve just got to be very careful these days,” Murray said after beating Japan’s Go Soeda 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in temperatures that topped 42C. “There have been some issues in other sports with players having heart attacks or collapsing. I don’t know exactly why that is. In this heat, that’s when you’re really pushing it to your limits. You don’t want to see anything bad happen to anyone.”
Murray was grateful to have closed out his emphatic victory in less than an hour and a half and to have played in Hisense Arena, where the court was completely in the shade by the end of the match. Others who played earlier in the day and on outside courts were not so fortunate.
Canada’s Frank Dancevic fainted in the second set of his defeat by Benoît Paire and later criticised the tournament for not halting play. “I think it’s inhumane,” Dancevic said. “I don’t think it’s fair to anybody, to the players, to the fans, to the sport, when you see players pulling out of matches, passing out.
“I’ve played five-set matches all my life and being out there for a set and a half and passing out with heatstroke, it’s not normal. Until somebody dies, they’re just going to keep playing matches in this heat.”
A ballboy also fainted, while China’s Peng Shuai said the heat had caused her to cramp up and vomit during her defeat to Kurumi Nara. Victoria Azarenka said after her victory over Johanna Larsson that being on court was like “dancing in a frying pan” while John Isner said it was “like an oven – when I open the oven and the potatoes are done”.
However, the tournament doctor, Tim Wood, insisted: “There were a few players who experienced heat-related illness or discomfort, but none required significant medical intervention after they had completed their match.”
Under the tournament’s “extreme heat policy”, whereby the conditions are assessed according to a formula taking into account heat and humidity, the referee can stop play and shut the roofs on covered courts. Humidity was low and the only concession to the heat – apart from ice towels which the players used at changeovers – was to add a 10-minute break between the second and third sets of women’s matches. Similar conditions are forecast for the next three days.
Murray, who has said in the past that he thinks women should play matches over the best of five sets rather than three, disagreed with the women and men being treated differently, but added: “I don’t want to get into this debate. The women are more than capable of playing best of five sets. It takes away all of the arguments that people want to have if the women play best of five.
“I don’t know why there are different rules for the heat. If there’s a medical reason for it, then I’m fine with it. If there isn’t, I’m not fine with it.”
This was only Murray’s third competitive match since he had back surgery in September and he was justifiably happy with his performance after outclassing Soeda from start to finish. The Scot moved freely and hit the ball consistently well, especially on his backhand flank.
“I maybe didn’t expect to play as well as I did today, but the signs have been good in practice,” he said. “I started the match off very well and did everything solid.
Murray said he felt much better having had the back operation. “On certain shots I’m a lot freer in the movement just now,” he said. “That was the whole point of having the surgery. So if I was still in pain and stiff and sore then I’d be a bit worried about the next few years. But I’m hoping it was the right decision. I felt freer today than I did for the last 18 months.”
Rafael Nadal needed to play only one set before Bernard Tomic retired with a groin injury on a bad day for Australia’s Davis Cup team. Lleyton Hewitt levelled his match with Andreas Seppi after going two sets down but lost 7-6, 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 7-5 after four hours and 18 minutes.
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