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Australian Open urged to tackle heat with arena upgrades

A health and safety expert has urged Australian Open organisers to modify the tennis tournament’s facilities to protect players and spectators from Melbourne’s high temperatures.

The event is held during the height of the Australian summer, and this year’s tournament got underway on Monday. Temperatures during today’s (Thursday’s) matches reached as high as 39 degrees and an even hotter day is predicted for tomorrow.

Players visibly struggled during today’s matches, with France’s Gael Monfils appearing to give up during some rallies due to the stifling temperatures. Monfils won the first set of his second-round match against Novak Djokovic but eventually lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to the six-time Australian Open champion.

Australian newspaper The Age noted that today’s attendance was 38,072, which represented a decrease of 10,000 on the two previous day-time gates.

Speaking to The Age, Dr Liz Hanna said that steps must be taken to ensure the safety of athletes and fans alike. Dr Hanna, president of the Climate and Heath Alliance, said: “If the organisers of the Australian Open insist that it stay in January, then (they must) modify those facilities to keep spectators safe, because otherwise people won’t go, or hopefully people will be sensible enough to realise that it will be very risky for their health if they do go.”

When the temperature exceeds 40 degrees and the wet bulb globe temperature surpasses 32.5 degrees, an extreme heat policy comes into effect and outdoor matches are not played. Matches on indoor courts are halted before resuming with the roof closed.

Image: Jono52795