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Tennis Australia alters Australian Open extreme heat policy

Tennis Australia alters Australian Open extreme heat policy
December 4, 2014

The organisers of the Australian Open have made significant changes to the 'extreme heat policy' for the 2015 tournament.

With long-range weather forecasts predicting another summer of above-average temperatures, tournament organisers are understood to have made adjustments to the heat policy that was widely debated during heatwave conditions at the 2014 event.

With temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius for four days at this year's tournament, media reported incidences water bottles melting, ballboys collapsing and players vomiting and passing out

Amid accusations of players being forced to play in "inhumane" conditions play was stopped for only four hours on the outer courts during the 2014 Australian Open.

In 2015, Tennis Australia have advised that a key change will involve the way the heat policy is communicated, although the trigger point for the suspension of play at the end of in-progress sets on uncovered courts and roof closures on Rod Laver, Hisense and Margaret Court Arenas will remain at the discretion of the tournament referee, Wayne McKewan.

Play stoppages and roof closures will not only rquire temperature to reach a predetermined threshhold, but will also take into account relevant weather forecasts when change is imminent, to avoid unecessary interruptions.

The welcome addition of the new retractable roof over Margaret Court Arena (the third Australian Open to be roofed - pictured below) is seen as one of the catalysts for Tennis Australia's determination to provide conditions that are as fair and consistent as possible across both the protected showcourts and outside.

Speaking this week, Tournament Director Craig Tiley said the Margaret Court Arena’s new roof will mitigate the effects of hot weather, adding that the changes to the heat policy would make matters clearer to players.

Tiley explained “the heat policy, as always, will be applied at the referee's discretion (with) the decision on implementing the heat policy (to)take into account the forecast once the ambient temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius, and the Wet Bulb Global Temperature (WBGT) reading exceeds 32.5.

"When conditions exceed these levels the referee is taking into account the forecast and state of play when making his discretionary call."

Rather than use the raw Celsius readings to assess the heat, organisers prefer to use the WBGT composite, which also gauges humidity and wind to identify the perceived conditions.

In another change, when the heat policy is enacted matches in progress will continue until the end of an even number games in that set or completion of tie break, limiting the exposure of players to the heat.




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