Wednesday, January 26, 2005

If you can't take the heat...

In 1997, the talented Swiss tennis player Patty Schnyder had to be carried off the court on a stretcher, so intense was the heat at the Australian Open. Last night, Schnyder again succumbed to the intense heat and dropped her second quarterfinal set, 1-6. She was defeated by Nathalie Dechy in three sets, and--not to take anything away from Dechy, whose tennis skills have improved quite a bit lately--but it is possible that Schnyder would have won in two sets had it not been for the heat problem.

A few years ago at the Open, Martina Hingis had to withdraw from a doubles match because of heat exhaustion. In 2002, Hingis was again overcome by the heat in a set she was winning against Jennifer Capriati. Capriati went on to win the match and make a significant comeback into the world of tennis

On day 10 of the 2005 Australian Open, Russian player Nokolay Davydenko retired in the middle of the third set because of heat complications. Earlier in the match, the medical crew had wrapped him in an ice vest and given him an inhaler. Davydenko had also been given the ice wrap in an earlier round.

Some day, someone will simply drop dead on the court in Melbourne, and then officials will have to change the Australian Open's ridiculous heat rules. As it stands now, the temperature must get to 95 degrees before officials can provide a roof over the net. If 95 seems like a high number, the reality is even worse. Because of the effects of sun on the court's surface, 94 degrees is actually 100 degrees, so the roof cannot go up until the court temperature reaches 101 degrees. In addition, officials are not allowed to assemble the roof once the match has begun.

If a women's match goes to three sets, the players are allowed to take a break after the second set. However, on the men's side, no such break is ever allowed.

This has nothing to do with fitness, but with the overpowering effect that heat has on many people, regardless of their physical conditions. Making people play a very demanding sport in very intense heat is not only dangerous, it also unfairly affects the outcomes of matches.

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