Sport Tennis Australian Open Australian Open adds ‘heat stress scale’

Australian Open adds ‘heat stress scale’

Novak Djokovic - Australian Open 2018
Novak Djokovic of Serbia cools down at the Australian Open in January this year. Photo: AAP
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Extreme heat is likely to remain a source of discontent at the Australian Open despite tournament organisers introducing changes aimed at improving conditions for players.

Officials have scrapped the use of wet bulb globe temperature readings for the season-opening grand slam, starting on January 14.

A newly developed “heat stress scale”, which takes into account air temperature, radiant heat, humidity and wind speed, will instead be applied along with more comprehensive measuring of conditions across Melbourne Park.

A 10-minute break between the third and fourth set will also be introduced in men’s singles matches when the five-point scale nears its most extreme point.

The previous heat policy was widely criticised during this year’s tournament.

Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils complained after struggling through 39 degree heat in their second-round match, while other players and commentators called for more protection.

But tournament director Craig Tiley has confirmed none of this year’s contentious decisions to continue play would have been overturned under the revamped system.

“On the [new] scale, the actions that were taken in that [Djokovic-Monfils] match would have been the same,” Tiley told reporters on Saturday.

“The work that we’ve done over the last 12 months of pulling together all this data, one of the first things we did on the outcome of that data was to do an overlay of decisions that were made over the past five years.

“It was aligned to all the decisions we made [being] correct under this new policy.”

Tiley said the new policy, developed with the University of Sydney and taking into account player feedback, would provide greater clarity to players and better prepare them for the conditions by providing real-time updates.

Australian world No.35 Nick Kyrgios said there was a clear need for improvement at the major.

“It is dangerous, they need to do a better job,” he said in Brisbane.

“I remember playing a game against Benjamin Becker [in 2014] and it was so hot out there – ball boys were fainting, people in the crowd weren’t feeling too good.”

The introduction of heat-related breaks for male players brings the tournament into line with the US Open which was repeatedly forced to stop play earlier this year.

Play will be suspended on outdoor courts and the roof closed on the marquee courts when the heat scale reading is 5.0 or above.

Tiley defended closing the roof at Rod Laver Arena during this year’s men’s final – a decision widely seen to have helped Roger Federer win his 20th grand slam title.

“We’re absolutely comfortable with the decision. It was the right decision,” Tiley said.

“I’ve spoken to both players since then … and made very clear why we made our decision.”

Tiley said ticket sales were tracking strongly with Serena Williams and Andy Murray set to join a star-studded field after missing this year’s tournament.