Extreme heat, rain, hurricane bring matches to a stop, trigger weather policy, suspension of play, cooling breaks
Melbourne’s wild climate was on show on Tuesday as searing heat, and later driving rain, forced play to halt at the Australian Open.
With the temperature reaching 37 degrees in Melbourne, the sweltering conditions triggered the Australian Open’s extreme heat policy to allow players to cool down.
Umpires brought matches on outside courts without roofs to a halt due to the conditions, with an initial plan to pause for 10 minutes almost immediately upgraded, keeping players off the courts for several hours in the mid afternoon.
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Matches eventually resumed in the late afternoon, but others had to be delayed when rain began bucketing down in the night session.
“The umpires (have) been given the instruction that we are now within the heat stress rules so the players are being withdrawn from the courts,” Todd Woodbridge said in commentary for Nine.
“[The players will return] once the temperature lowers enough between the heat stress and the wet bulb and the varying things [the organisers] use.”
The heat policy at Melbourne Park is based on a heat stress scale which has a mount of one to five.
When any of the matches on the outdoor courts reach five, play will be suspended, while the stadium roofs will close for the remainder of the matches.
“There are measurements used to determine whether it’s safe for the players to compete and once it hits the level that it is at now – it’s a scale of one to five, and it is currently at 5.0 – that means its an automatic suspension of play once they get to an even game on each of these outside courts,” commentator Jim Courier said on Nine.
“The stadium courts which have the opportunity to shut their roofs, they will stop and step down until the roof is closed. The air-conditioning will be cranked up and they will restart at that point.
“This is in effect, or something similar to a rain delay and until that heat index comes back down to below the level four, below five, they will treat it like a rain delay and the players will stay inside and cool off a little bit until it becomes safe to play.”
“Each player will be given at least 30 minutes notice prior to the resumption of play to be able to warm back up to come back out and then the announcement will be made to the commentators in the box and the public and fans that are onsite,” Woodbridge added.
Australians Christopher O’Connell and Thanasi Kokkinakis were among the matches delayed during the night session, while eight matches were ultimately postponed to Wednesday.
“A mini hurricane of sorts here at Melbourne Park,” James Bracey said on Nine.
“It has turned with some ferocity. Melbourne … beautiful one day, chaotic the next.”
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