Maria Sharapova blasts Open organisers over extreme heat policy

R\ussian is among several contenders who are confused by seemingly random decision to suspend play

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 10:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 11:30pm

Maria Sharapova on Thursday demanded more clarity from organisers on their heat policy after surviving a brutal three-hour marathon in scorching conditions at the Australian Open.

The third seed battled through a third set lasting nearly two hours to overcome Karin Knapp 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.

The conditions were so tough that organisers suspended play midway through the third set. However, under tournament rules, Sharapova and Knapp had to first finish the set.

No one actually knows what that number is in comparison to humidity or the actual heat
Maria Sharapova

"There is no way getting around the fact that the conditions were extremely difficult, and have been for the last few days," she said.

"I mean, I think the question I have is no one really knows what the limit is. Not the players; the trainers themselves, when you ask them when will the roof be closed.

"No one actually knows what that number is in comparison to humidity or the actual heat.

"Sometimes you wish you know, because it just depends on I'm not sure who, a referee or the meteorologist, and there are just a lot of questions in the air that maybe should be solved."

The policy was put into force at 1.50pm local time as the mercury headed towards a peak of 43.4 degrees Celsius and no play was possible until 6pm.

In a bizarre turn of events, less than two hours after the resumption, the players were forced off again by lightning and rain.

France's Alize Cornet said conditions were similar a day earlier when temperatures peaked at 42.2 degrees.

"On Tuesday, I wonder why they didn't stop play. It was like an oven," she said. "The wind was scorching, and some people fainted. They shouldn't go to such an extreme.

"Why today and not on Tuesday? The conditions are similar, it's maybe one degree more. It looks like their decision is made a bit on the fly, and that's a pity."

The extreme heat policy, introduced in 1998, relies on the "wet bulb global temperature" - a complex calculation factoring air temperature, humidity, wind and sunlight. The last time it was used was in 2009, the hottest Australian Open on record.

While Sharapova came through her match unscathed, she still has vivid memories of 2007 when she played in searing heat at Melbourne against France's Camille Pin after which she said she was "so delusional I couldn't think".

Ivan Dodig became the 10th player to retire in the first three days on Wednesday and said he feared for his life.

Twelve doubles matches were cancelled on Thursday. The heat was forecast to continue on Friday before a dramatic drop in temperatures at the weekend.

Additional reporting by Reuters