|Enraged players turn up heat on Australia and denounce inhumane Melbourne tennis furnace
Players fainted and vomited and a ball boy collapsed as the Australian Open boiled in 42 degrees Celsius heat today, prompting angry complaints. Fans kept fans away in their thousands. (Pictured, Julian Reister of Germany lies down and retires hurt in his first round match against Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil during day two of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park today).
Temperatures of 42 Celsius, enough to melt plastic bottles on the rubberized courts, made for a punishing day for the players. Some were incensed that their matches went ahead.
Canada's Frank Dancevic lashed out at the “inhumane'' playing conditions after he blacked out and needed treatment during his first-round defeat to Benoit Paire.
“I think it's inhumane, 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,'' he said.
“I've played five-set matches all my life and being out there for a set-and-a-half and passing out with heat-stroke, it's not normal.
“Having players with so many problems and complaining to the tournament that it's too hot to play, until somebody dies, they're just keep going on with it and putting matches on in this heat.
“I personally don't think it's fair and I know a lot of players don't think it's fair.''
Chinese player Peng Shuai cramped and vomited during her loss to Japan's Kurumi Nara, and also received a violation for time-wasting at a moment when she said she was unable to walk.
“I was just cramping and I couldn't stand up. Both legs, my hamstrings were cramping,'' she said.
"I had no energy, I couldn't run, I couldn't serve,'' she said, blaming the heat for her defeat. “So it's impossible to play tennis like this.''
There was no immediate response from tournament officials to the complaints.
The Australian Open, held at the height of the Melbourne summer, is notorious for its heat. State officials imposed a blanket fire ban and warned of extreme temperatures in some areas.
The day's peak of 42 Celsius was shy of Melbourne's January record of 45.6 Celsius, recorded during the notorious Black Friday bushfires of 1936.
Players draped themselves in ice towels and guzzled water on the changeovers as temperatures, already at 35 Celsius before play even started, increased steadily until the early evening.
“It felt pretty hot, like you're dancing in a frying pan or something like that,'' said defending women's champion Victoria Azarenka. “I don't think anybody wants to go outdoors right now.''
Daniel Gimeno-Traver helped a ball boy to his chair after he collapsed during the Spaniard's four-set loss to Milos Raonic. A spokeswoman said the boy later recovered.
And former women's world number one Caroline Wozniacki said that when she put her water bottle down on court, the bottom began to melt.
“Geez, it feels hot out there,'' said Wozniacki, who headed straight for an ice bath after her win over Lourdes Dominguez Lino. “It feels like I was sweating in a sauna or something.''
Despite the incidents, officials chose not to invoke emergency heat rules which allow them to halt play and close the roofs on the centre and second court.
But empty seats were prevalent as many fans stayed away, perhaps knowing how bad conditions have been in the past.