Frazzled Sharapova fumes over murky heat policy

Thu Jan 16, 2014 7:26am EST
 
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova criticized Australian Open organizers for a lack of transparency over their 'extreme heat policy' when the Russian was left toiling on court for nearly an hour after organizers had invoked an official halt on Thursday.

Sharapova and her opponent Karin Knapp of Italy slugged it out in 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) heat at Rod Laver Arena for three-and-a-half hours before the Russian prevailed 6-3 4-6 10-8 in their marathon second round encounter.

The pair were already struggling in the oppressive conditions but continued their arduous battle some 50 minutes after matches on outside courts were suspended at about 1:50 p.m. local time (0250 GMT).

Players have slammed organizers for failing to call off matches earlier, with some describing the conditions as dangerous, and one Croatian player in the men's draw expressing fear for his life on Wednesday.

Rather than use the raw Celsius readings to assess the heat, organizers prefer to use the Wet Bulb Global Temperature composite, which also gauges humidity and wind to identify the perceived conditions.

Under a change to the rules for this year, the decision on whether to stop matches is now at the discretion of tournament referee Wayne McKewen.

"There is no way getting around the fact that the conditions were extremely difficult, and have been for the last few days," the third seed Sharapova told reporters.

"It's a tough call. I mean, I think the question I have is no one really knows what the limit is.   Continued...

 
Maria Sharapova of Russia holds ice on her head during her women's singles match against Karin Knapp of Italy at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 16, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray