Ridiculousness in Melbourne

Aussie Open Ballboy
A ballboy faints in the heat, as Melbourne heads towards 43 degrees celsius during day two of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Last night a rain came through Melbourne and cooled out what had been a horrible heat wave. Players were playing under 110F heat which meant that on the court is was as high as 125F. The question was why was play allowed to continue?

It becomes crystal clear when your hear from the tournament doctor. From SI‘s Jon Wertheim story:

Here’s the tournament doctor, Tim Wood: “Tennis, as a sport, is relatively low risk for major heat problems compared to… continuous running events. So you’re more likely to get into trouble in these events, in a 10K road race, than you are in a tennis match. As you can appreciate, the players, the time the ball is in play, in total time for the match is relatively small. The amount of heat they produce from muscles exercising is relatively small in terms of what someone continuously exercising will do. They sit down every five to ten minutes for every 90 seconds at change of ends, so there is chance to lose some heat at that time. Tennis by and large is a low risk sport, and that’s why by and large, like cricket, we can play in these conditions and not be too concerned.”


Don’t the players have a union? Can they get together and refuse to play under such inhumane conditions? Josh Levin of Slate explores this.

So what’s holding back unionization? Extreme income inequality, for one. While Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NFL all have minimum salaries—thanks, players unions!—tennis players at the bottom rungs struggle to break even due to the high costs of travel and coaching. A struggling up-and-comer like Colin Fleming, then, has about as much in common with me as he does with Novak Djokovic. At the sport’s highest level, too, there’s no universal agreement about thorny subjects like drug testing, scheduling, and the ranking system. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, normally the best of pals, had a bit of a falling out a few years ago over Nadal’s belief that Federer wasn’t speaking out about the issues bedeviling tour players.

Said Canadian player Frank Dancevic after he collapsed during his first round match on the second day of play: “I was dizzy from the middle of the first set, and then I saw Snoopy and I thought, ‘Wow, Snoopy, that’s weird.'”

Fortunately from here on out temperatures are expected to get no higher than the 80s. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that what happened in this first week of the major was borderline criminal.