How hot is it in Australia right now? So hot that the Australian bureau of meteorology has had to add colors to its heat index to accurately reflect the current weather climate across the country, as an extreme heat wave hit just as players are trying to squeeze in their final preparations for next week's Australian Open in Melbourne.
By the time top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska closed out a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kimiko Date-Krumm at the Apia International Sydney on Tuesday afternoon, the on-court thermometer registered 104 degrees Fahrenheit with a full slate of matches still to play. That wasn't even the hottest part of the day. Temperatures climbed to 106.5 degrees later, leaving players battling the heat and each other in a virtually empty stadium, as fans sought shelter from the sun.
"Today was one of the hottest days, for sure," Radwanska said. "This is too hot to play tennis. Even for players, for ball kids, for people sitting out there, I think it's too hot."
Li Na, who arrived in Sydney after playing in wintery 40 degrees in Shenzhen, China, said she was just happy to still be in the tournament after having to play in sauna-like conditions. The reliably dramatic Jelena Jankovic said her feet were burning and that she thought her head was going to explode. It seems the weather was all anyone could talk about in Sydney.
"We see each other in the locker room after the matches, and I think all of us just saying it's too hot," Radwanska said. When asked whether these were the hottest conditions they've ever played in, many players recalled the 2009 Australian Open, when it was so hot you could fry an egg on the court.
Two-time Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who had to play through qualifying for her spot in the main draw, upset Caroline Wozniacki 7-6, 1-6, 6-2 in a match that lasted almost four hours late Tuesday afternoon. The Russian said she wilted in the second set due to the heat but regained her bearings after a 10-minute heat break between the second and third sets. Wozniacki was forced to call for the trainer in the third set for fatigue also.
"Players have to be fit to play in hot conditions, wind conditions, anything. We're like iron women, almost," Kuznetsova said with a laugh.
All tennis tournaments have an extreme-heat policy that allows officials to suspend play at their discretion when conditions become dangerous. The policy is not triggered by a simple temperature reading, but by a formula that takes heat, humidity, wind and radiation into account. Apparently the conditions in Sydney on Tuesday didn't trigger the policy, even though a number of players, including Galina Voskoboeva, were treated for heat stroke. The ATP trainer was so busy treating players he skipped a scheduled media conference.
The current forecast for Sydney Olympic Park is for a break in temperatures Wednesday.