Heat policy revamped for Australian Open

Published by Tennismash / Tennis Australia

The sun shines over Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open (Getty Images)
Australian Open organisers have unveiled a new extreme heat policy of the 2019 event, designed to better ensure the wellbeing of players.

A more extensive extreme heat policy is set to be introduced at Australian Open 2019.

Key features include the introduction of a five-point AO Heat Stress Scale as well as more comprehensive measuring of weather conditions at Melbourne Park and an increase in measuring devices across the site.

A 10-minute break during men’s singles singles matches will be introduced after the third set should the heat stress scale hit a level of four.

This break joins the existing 10-minute breaks already in place for women’s singles and junior singles, and the 15-minute break for wheelchair singles matches.

NEWS: tiebreaks to decide final sets at Australian Open

The tournament’s revamped policy comes as a result of cutting-edge research and testing into the specific effects of heat stress on tennis players.

The research was conducted by Tennis Australia medical personnel in conjunction with the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory at the University of Sydney.

Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said his team was constantly looking for ways to improve the conditions for the players.

“The wellbeing of all players at the Australian Open is our utmost priority and we have developed the Australian Open Heat Stress Scale after months of research and testing,” he said.

“The AO Heat Stress Scale ranges from one to five with specific recommendations associated with each step of the scale – one denoting temperate playing conditions and five the suspension of play.

“Under the updated policy, 10-minute breaks can also be introduced into men’s singles matches for the first time.”

Tennis Australia Chief Medical Officer Dr Carolyn Broderick said the AO Heat Stress Scale took advantage of the latest medical research into the effects of heat on the human body.

“(This includes) the maximum heat stress an athlete can safely withstand, the sweat rate of that person and their core temperature,” she explained.

“The scale also accounts for the physiological variances between adults, wheelchair and junior athletes while also taking into account the four climate factors – air temperature, radiant heat or the strength of the sun, humidity and wind speed – which affect a player’s ability to disperse heat from their body.

The increase in measuring capabilities at the event will provide more information for organisers than the previous Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WGBT) readings from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Breaking down the Australian Open’s extreme heat policy (EHP)

When a four (4.0) is recorded on the AO heat stress scale prior to or during the first two sets of a match, the tournament referee will:

  • allow a 10-minute break between the second and third sets in both women’s and junior singles matches
  • allow a 15-minute break in wheelchair singles matches
  • allow a 10-minute break during men’s singles matches after the third set (when a “four” is recorded on heat stress scale prior to or during the first three sets of the match)

If a five (5.0) is recorded:

  • the referee can suspend the start of matches on outside courts
  • all matches in progress will continue until the end of an even number of games in that set or at the completion of the tiebreak before play will be suspended.
  • matches in progress on Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and Melbourne Arena will continue until that same point; the referee can decide to close the roof for the remainder of the match and following matches (when the EHP is still in effect)

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