Australian Open Weather / Extreme Heat Policy

With summer temperatures regularly hitting the 30 degree centigrade mark in Melbourne, organisers of the Australian Open, in consultation with several players, have come up with a ruling to deal with the Australian Open weather.

The Extreme Heat Policy was first introduced in 1998. It comes into play when daytime temperatures hit 35 degrees and the heat stress level reaches 28.

The policy in a nutshell:

  • No new matches can start on outside courts for at least an hour after the policy is implemented
  • All matches in progress must be completed
  • The Tournament referee may suspend matches if deemed dangerous
  • The roofs of both the Rod Laver and Vodafone Arenas can be closed, but only after current matches have been completed.
  • There is provision for the breaks between games and sets to be made longer than usual during the heat-affected matches

The measurement of ‘Heat Stress’ is known as the wet bulb globe temperature and is a combination of ambient air temperature, wind speed, humidity and the intensity of solar radiation.

The 2007 Australian Open weather was particularly hard on the players. On-court temperatures were measured at around 50 degrees centigrade at one stage. Several players were badly affected even though the Extreme Heat Policy was introduced.

In one of the closely contested matches lasting for over 3 hours, Janko Tipsarevic retired in the fifth set, effectively handing David Nalbandian an easy victory, due to the intensity of the heat on-court.

Many players spoke of their physical condition due to the heat:

  • Frenchwomen, Camille Pin said her feet were burning and legs shaking
  • ‘Brain fry’ is how Australian, Robert Smeets, described the incredible heat
  • Maria Sharapova spoke of feeling ‘delusional’ on court during her first round match against Pin
  • Nalbandian suffered intense headaches and dizziness

One of the factors heavily criticised by the players is that a match cannot be temporarily halted while the roofs are being closed. Sports medicine experts have heavily supported player’s comments and believe that it would be ‘reasonable’ to pause matches so that the roofs can be closed, as long as both players agree.