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Coping with the summer heat Down Under

6th January 2015 Print
Australian Open

When you’re feeling the cold of January take hold in the northern hemisphere, and have no chance of escaping anywhere to get some winter sunshine, you may decide to wrap a blanket around yourself, turn on the TV and take some time out to watch the top tennis players of the world work up a sweat at the Australian Open in Melbourne. The first of the year’s four tennis Grand Slams begins on 11 January.

But while it’s easy to think how nice it would be to have a little of that Melbourne sunshine right now – it’s actually hard to cope, as was demonstrated all too well in the same tournament last year. On that occasion, with 40 degree-plus temperatures, the 2014 Australian Open saw a record-breaking nine players retire during the first round of the tournament and the organisers imposed the extreme heat policy by day four.

During the tournament, a ball boy collapsed and water bottles were melting on court. One player, Frank Dancevic, fainted during his match and was unconscious for more than a minute. Before fainting, Dancevic, from Canada, had an on-court hallucination that featured the cartoon character Snoopy. Although he played on after regaining consciousness, Dancevic lost the match in straight sets.

As well as millions of tennis fans tuning in to watch the Open on TV, an estimated 650-700,000 people are expected to attend the event in person this January. And watching tennis in the heat can be as dangerous for the spectators as the players at a big event such as the Aussie Open.

How to cope with blistering temperatures

So how, exactly, do you cope with such blistering temperatures?

Well, ideally, don’t be in them. Staying cool in the shade wherever you can is a far better idea. But if you have to be out and about, or you have tickets for a major event like the Australian Open, for example, then the most important thing is to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Also, always wear plenty of high factor sun cream, a hat with a big brim to keep the heat and sun off, and cool loose-fitting clothing.

If you begin to feel dizzy or nauseous, get yourself to a cool and shaded place straight away. Make sure you have sufficient salt intake and seek medical advice. But always keep up the fluid intake.

This year, the organisers have changed things around

In 2015, the heat shouldn’t prove to be so much of an issue as the whole of Melbourne Park has been weatherproofed. This is thanks to the introduction of a third retractable roof on the Margaret Court Arena. And, if necessary, the whole Australian Open could be played indoors if the conditions proved too difficult to play outdoors. The Melbourne Park precinct is now the only tennis Grand Slam venue in the world that has three courts with retractable roofs. At London’s Wimbledon, the retractable roofs on the show courts, Centre Court and Court Number One, serve quite a different weather-proofing purpose - preventing play being interrupted by rain.

As for who’s going to win in the heat of Melbourne this Aussie summer, well for the women, familiar names make up the list of favourites on betfair and other online betting sites. Serena Williams is favourite at around 2/1, followed by Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka at about 7/1. Caroline Wozniacki is priced at about 10/1 and Petra Kvitova at 12/1. Last year’s winner, Li Na, announced her retirement from tennis in September 2014, but will return to the tournament in January as an official “Friend of the Australian Open”.

As for the men, it’s a similar story, with the top four favourites being Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. Last year’s Men’s Australian Open winner, Stan Wawrinka, is priced at around 12/1, and although Wawrinka isn’t as dominant a player as Nadal or Federer, he’s still one to watch as he has the potential to win. This summer he reached the quarter-finals of both the Wimbledon and US Open tournaments.

While their tennis skills will undoubtedly be stretched to the limit during the tournament, it’s unlikely that the players will be handicapped by the heat as much as last year. Thanks to the latest technology in the retractable roof design at the Margaret Court Arena, matches won’t even need to be stopped in order to close the roof.

So, whatever the weather has in store for Melbourne in the next couple of weeks, the Grand Slam event is guaranteed to be completed on time. However, it’s likely that the roofs won’t be employed too much during the tournament as the long-range weather forecast has only shown the possibility of plus-40 degrees on one of the days this year.

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Australian Open