When Glenn Frey wrote and sang “The Heat Is On” you would not have through it could be related to conditions at the Australian Open but how appropriate is this?
The heat is on, on the street
Inside your head, on every beat
And the beat's so loud, deep inside
The pressure's high, just to stay alive
'Cause the heat is on
Melbourne has been in the grip of an extreme heatwave that has seen temperatures climb well past 40 degrees Celsius. It was only on day four of the Open that the Extreme Heat Policy (EHP) was invoked and play was suspended. The actual formula that is used is too complicated to explain and I am not even going to try. However in essence matches were suspended as soon as a live set was completed and once matches in progress on the two main show courts ended the roofs were closed. Practice was also stopped on the outside courts.
The match that was caught in the middle of all the suspensions had Maria Sharapova playing Karin Knapp. Sharapova eventually won 10-8 in the third and when she came in, it was put to her that some players felt the conditions were “Inhumane to play” in while others felt like they were “going to die”.
“No one really knows what the limit is,” said Sharapova. “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. I asked the trainer the other day, ‘What does it take for the roof to be closed or matches to be stopped?’ She said, ‘We have no control over this’.”
Sharapova certainly has a point with that because the whole concept of the heat rule can be misunderstood and maybe there needs to be a clearer threshold with the implementation of the policy.
Sharapova didn’t seem convinced that the roof should have been closed during the match. Roger Federer made it clear that the roof should definitely not be closed.
Sharapova did however say that communication should be improved between the event and the players by providing warnings about the weather and what to do. That’s turning the responsibility to others rather than the players themselves. Isn’t it their responsibility to make sure they are in the best possible condition for all conditions? The players know all too well what it is like in Australia in January.
Asked if she thought the situation was unsafe or unplayable, Sharapova said: “It's not for me to determine, because I had to play and I had to finish the match and do it the best I can. It's not the best conditions, but I don't want to complain. Even if I lost the match that wouldn't be the reason, because there is still somebody across the net that's facing the same type of conditions.”
For many players a match like the one she played against Knapp might have a telling factor down the track but Sharapova did not pass the buck, making it clear that she had opportunities to finish the match a lot faster than she eventually did.
“I would have loved for it to finish faster, but that's what I got and I have to deal with the circumstances. I'm all right with that. I'm a competitor here, and I worked hard to get through that match. I will have to work just as hard to get through the next ones,” she said.