Roger Federer thinks it’s a “very mental thing” — he’s learned to deal with the heat across a record 57 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, winning an unprecedented 17 men’s majors.
The Swiss star was as cool as usual in his straight-set opening win over Australian wild-card entry James Duckworth on Tuesday afternoon, his first under the supervision of new coach Stefan Edberg.
But he had more shade on center court than there was out on Court 6, where the first two matches ended in injury retirements and Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic collapsed during the third.
Dancevic got up and finished, losing 7-6 (12), 6-3, 6-4 to No. 27 Benoit Paire, and later said the conditions were “inhumane” and “definitely hazardous.”
Andy Murray agreed after his 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Go Soeda of Japan, advising officials not to be too cavalier with the rules.
“It looks terrible for the whole sport when people are collapsing, ball kids are collapsing, people in the stands are collapsing,” the Wimbledon champion said.
At the end of the day, half of the 128 players in each of the men’s and women’s draws were outsted.
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal and No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro joined Federer and Murray as players advancing in a loaded top side of the men’s draw.
Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka also advanced, describing playing on the Rod Laver Arena surface as “like you’re dancing in a frying pan.” Former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki chimed in with claims that her plastic water bottle was melting on Margaret Court Arena.
By the time four-time major winner Maria Sharapova beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-4 just before midnight, the temperature had dipped from a blazing 108 degrees to a relatively cool 86.
The hot wind that blew all day across Melbourne Park offered no reprieve at the peak of the heat. Nor did Australian Open organizers, opting against suspending matches because they said the humidity level was relatively low.
Tim Wood, the chief medical officer at the Australian Open, conceded players experienced “heat-related illness or discomfort,” but added: “None required significant medical intervention after they had completed their match.”
Tournament director Craig Tiley endorsed those sentiments. A ball girl was treated for heat stress during a morning match, and the tournament shortened rotations for the ball kids to 45-minute shifts and added extra precautions.
Players slung long bags of ice over their necks and heads and retreated to the shade whenever possible, and so did the most diehard of fans — the crowd was almost 12,000 down from Day 1.
There’s more heat in store for this week, with maximum temperatures forecast to remain above 104 degrees. That’s not surprising. It’s summer in Australia, the earth’s driest inhabited continent.
Three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic, who has previously struggled with the dry Melbourne heat, has a day-time second-round match against Leonardo Mayer on Wednesday, immediately after No. 1-ranked Serena Williams takes on Vesna Dolonc.
There were injuries unrelated to the heat on Day 2: Bernard Tomic of Australia retired from his night match against Nadal after losing the first set 6-4 due to a groin injury, prompting boos from the crowd, and No. 13 John Isner lost two sets before retiring with a troublesome right ankle.
The longest match of the day lasted 4 hours, 32 minutes. No. 18 Gilles Simon beat Daniel Brands 6-7 (4), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 16-14 despite coming into the tournament with an injured ankle.
Sharapova, playing her first major since a second-round loss at Wimbledon, watched some of the day session on TV before her match started and sympathized with the players out in the sun.
“I noticed their facial expressions. I’m sure it was very difficult for everyone,” the third-seeded Russian said. “I think everyone, except the meteorologists and the doctors, seemed to have the same opinion about the weather.”