Nature awaits the one traveling to Melbourne in the beginning of the year. Tourist or not, you just can’t miss going to the beach, sipping a drink and enjoying the waves as the heat massages the body. But such is not the case when a part of the earth’s population spends two weeks at the Rod Laver Arena.
Australian Open (AO), the first slam of the year and the only slam to take place in the southern hemisphere. Since 1905, this slam has been special to the players and the spectators who make this slam the most attended slam after the US Open.
The slam was held previously on grass before changing itself to hard court since 1988. In Rebound Ace was what the Australian Open hard turf was called then. It had a successful run before the players began complaining of the turf being sticky at higher temperatures. The point was pondered upon and in 2007, the officials decided to come up with the Plexicushion Prestige, the turf which is currently in use. The advantage of this turf is that it retained a lesser heat due to its thinner top layer.
Heat has been a controversial topic of discussion in the recent past. The Australian Open is a major victim of the same. During the 2014 AO, the number of people to suffer from heat-related conditions reached new highs. Ball boys, players, spectators all suffered from a condition where the primary etiology was heat. The tournament witnessed four consecutive days where the temperature reached 40°C or more consistently.
THE FIRST THOUGHT
In 1988, the first guidelines were laid in cases of severe heat during a match. It stated that the roof would be allowed to be closed only if the temperature crossed 39°C or by the referee decision whenever the temperature peaks above 35°C. All this, only if all the matches were scheduled to be played inside the Rod Laver Arena. Ten years later, a new rule stated that the play will be stopped on all courts if the temperature reached 40°C. Though, this rule was later manipulated multiple times.
Apart from the normal temperature, organizers also use a wet-bulb globe temperature(WBGT). This is used to determine the effects of temperature, humidity, wind speed, visible and infrared radiations on human beings. In 2003, the threshold WBGT was decided to be 28. Later, after 2014, it was changed to 32.5.
APPLICATION OF THE POLICY
The men’s singles final saw the roof getting closed as the mercury touched 40°C.
The heat policy was first used during the quarterfinals.
The ladies’ final between Jennifer Capriati and Martina Hingis was played at a temperature of 35°C. The players were allowed a ten-minute break in between the second and third set. After 1998, there were many changes made in the threshold temperature. It was ultimately decided to be 40°C after the events of 2014.
Based on its changed guidelines back then, the policy was invoked as the play was halted for two hours. The temperature reached 30°C and the WBGT crossed 28.
The extreme heat policy was successively used in 2006 and 2007. Hence, in 2008, new rules were introduced. These were:
– The decision to use the policy will be based on referee’s decision.
– Matches in progress were to be halted after an even number of games in the set was completed.
– In the case of a tiebreaker, the match is halted after an even number of points are completed.
– The closure of roof depends on the referee’s decision.
The AO recorded its hottest version when the average temperature was nearly 35°C.
A record number of 9 players withdrew from the first round due to heat exhaustion and 970 spectators were treated for the same. Players were heard describing the conditions as inhumane and some of them were even said they thought they would die. As a result, the threshold temperature was raised to 40°C and the WBGT was raised to 32.5.
2017 awaits the players and compared to its previous burning years this one is expected to be a relatively cooler one. Let us all hope this year the sun burns less and the balls burn more when they leave the racquet’s surface.