Umbrellas up at Wimbledon - to keep the sun off

Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:56am EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - As is so often the case, the weather was the number one topic of conversation at Wimbledon on Tuesday but for once it was not the prospect of rain that brought out the umbrellas but a beating sun on what was forecast to be the hottest day of the year.

Afternoon temperatures were expected to reach 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) -- considerably higher on court -- and the public address announcers were busy warning fans to drink water, apply sunscreen and wear hats.

While organizers of the Australian Open would consider such temperatures to be something of a spring chill, for Wimbledon it is truly tropical, though many players laughed off questions about how they dealt with the very British heatwave.

Almost all the outside courts offer no shade at all and even the show courts are exposed to the sun's full glare for most of the afternoon, with only the large umbrellas held by ball boys and girls during changeovers offering relief for the players.

There is a "heat rule" in place but it is about as clear as cricket's Duckworth-Lewis system divided by Pi squared.

Firstly, for no apparent logical reason, it applies only to the women. They are allowed a 10-minute break between the second and third sets when the "heat stress index" is at or above 30.1 degrees Celsius, but only if it reaches that figure before the match starts.

The heat stress index is produced by factoring in air temperature, humidity and surface temperature.

Why it does not apply to the men's game, where best-of-five matches are often considerably longer, nobody at Wimbledon was immediately able to explain.   Continued...

A couple shelter from the sun with a red umbrella at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, June 29, 2015.   REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth