ICYMI, it’s hot in Australia right now. Like, see-Snoopy-and-faint hot. Like, if-your-body-temperature-was-this-high-you-would-be-dead hot.
After three days of nearly insufferable temperatures–all well above 100 degrees–the Australian Open finally decided to enact their extreme heat policy to stop play until it was “safe” to go out there again.
But, because things make sense, there are people out there still playing tennis. Not all people, but some. Am I confusing you? Well, that’s because this whole thing is confusing. (And stupid.)
Here are the highlights of the policy, from the Australian Open website:
At the Referee’s discretion, the Tournament Referee may suspend the commencement of any further matches on outside courts;
Any matches currently in progress will continue until the end of the current set. At the completion of the set, play will be suspended;
Where play in any match commences outdoors (or with a roof open), the match will continue until the completion of the set. At the end of the set a decision will be made by the Referee to close to the roof for the remainder of the match and the following matches, where the EHP is still in effect (On Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena);
A roof will only be closed because of extreme heat if a decision has been made by the Referee to suspend the completion or commencement of matches on the outdoor courts; When the EHP has been implemented, the Tournament Referee will suspend the calling of any further matches on outside courts;
The break will not apply between the second and third sets if play had previously been suspended after the first set due to EHP.
During the suspension of play, the Referee will review the conditions and make a decision as to whether the EHP is still in force. A player will be given at least 30 minutes notice prior to the resumption of play. Announcements will be made via the public address system.
Today, when it was 107 degrees very early in the afternoon, this vague policy went into effect, stopping play. That sounds reasonable. Among others, Young and Seppi were taken off court after the fourth set, and Tsonga and Bellucci paused after the first set so they could close the roof. (Why you wouldn’t start the day with the roof closed is beyond me…)
But other players kept going. Most notably, Sharapova and Knapp, who were into a third set. A third set without a third-set tiebreaker. A third set that ended up going to 10-8. That is absolutely RIDICULOUS. If it is too hot on one court to be playing, it’s too hot everywhere. I mean, tennis sets can last 20 minutes or they can last 1 hour and 20 minutes.
I’m listening to Craig Tiley talk to Pammy on ESPN right now, and it seems the end-of-set rule is put into place so that the pause doesn’t stop momentum. But, in theory, the heat rule could come into effect when a set is at 1-0, meaning they’d have to play an entire set while everyone else sat inside because the heat was too dangerous!
Sure, I get that it shouldn’t be like rain delays where the players have to stop mid game, but seeing as “discretion” is a HUGE part of this already confusing rule, why not let the umpires apply such discression to individual matches? Sure, if they’re in a tiebreaker, don’t stop that. But once it gets to a changeover? If the match has just started? If they’re in a third set that could never end? Stop it.
It’s already ridiculously stupid to have a tennis tournament in these types of conditions. At least use some common sense and protect these athletes, not to mention the fans, ball boys, linesmen, and referees.
As for the players? Yeah, they’re not happy:
— Kirsten Flipkens (@FlipperKF) January 16, 2014
They should cancel the matches at this heat. What they did but still some matches are on, not fair.
— Svetlana Kuznetsova (@SvetlanaK27) January 16, 2014
The Australian Open usually does a great job of taking care of the players–at least when compared to the other slams–but this is something they need to work on. The EHP needs to become more transparent, more practical, and more evenly distributed for it to be at all effective, and it needs to happen quickly–this isn’t a problem that’s going away any time soon.