By Alana Mitchelson
(January 12, 2014) MELBOURNE – Melbourne’s heating up just in time for the Australian Open 2014 and the temperature is expected to hit a blistering high of 41ºC (approx. 106ºF) on Tuesday. While most would, quite understandably, squirm merely at the thought of hitting the courts in such sizzling conditions, players remain confident and content with their preparation in the lead up to the Summer tournament.
For many, the climbing temperatures come as no surprise and they consider Australian Open 2014 as just another year in Melbourne where the weather is constantly changing, regardless of the season, and largely unpredictable. Belarusian defending champion Victoria Azarenka admitted she was actually looking forward to embracing the warm weather.
“It’s not a new thing to play in the heat. I actually enjoy that. I mean, not all the time probably, but it’s nice to get some sun,” Azarenka said.
The world No. 1, Serena Williams, did not however share this sentiment and expressed how in hindsight, she regretted having complained about the unseasonably cold Melbourne January which had inspired her to carry around a blanket on her person earlier in the year.
“(The cold weather)’s been putting me in a really bad mood. But then it got really, really hot. Then I was very sad that I had complained, so I don’t complain anymore about the weather,” Williams said.
“I’m not going to complain anymore. I should have kept my mouth quiet and just dealt with the cold weather.”
Having focused her pre-season training in Florida, Williams is confident she will adapt well to Melbourne’s warm conditions.
“I’ve been training my whole life in the heat. I think I’m pretty used to it. I mean obviously the heat in Melbourne is just completely different to any other heat, but it’s okay. I’ve just got to be ready to play under any circumstances.”
Maria Sharapova did not so much as flinch when hearing of the scorching Tuesday forecast that is destined to welcome her first round match against American threat Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
“Sounds nice,” Sharapova said sarcastically with a smile.
Four-time Australian Open champion, Novak Djokovic, has opted to trust his usual training regime in the lead up to the Grand Slam which has seen him succeed time and time again at Melbourne Park. No stranger to a gruelling match in the heat, Djokovic believes he is ready to play best-of-five set matches in extreme conditions.
“The experience of playing many times in the Australian summer over the years definitely helps your preparations. But I don’t change anything in particular in my approach. Everything is more or less the same. I am expecting to play in big heat. You always have to expect that because you can’t really predict Melbourne’s weather.
“But I remember in 2008, ’9 and ’10 that there were several days I played in extreme heat. So I know how tough it is. But it’s the same for myself and my opponent so you just have to adjust to it.”
Only time will tell if play will be suspended at any stage during the week.
First introduced in 1998, the Australian Open Extreme Heat Policy allows for the suspension of matches on the outdoor courts, at the discretion of the tournament referee, when conditions are considered extreme. On such an instance, roofs of the arena’s will be closed, ensuring play can persist.
The conditions are measured by heat stress levels which must remain below a wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) reading of 28 to honor the policy; factoring in the temperature, humidity, sunlight and wind speed. This is equivalent to daytime temperatures of about 35ºC (approx. 95ºC).
For matches already in progress at such a time, play will continue until the end of that set regardless of how far into that set the players are.
Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website http://alanamitchelson.wordpress.com