Australian Open heat stress scale a first for grand slams
The Australian Open has released its new extreme heat policy, allowing 10-minute breaks in men's singles matches for the first time ever in a grand slam tennis tournament.
At the centre of the policy is a newly-developed heat stress scale, based on research by Tennis Australia medical personnel in conjunction with the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory at the University of Sydney.
The five-step scale allows organisers to take various levels of action, depending on the intensity of the heat.
It will allow for 10-minute breaks to be implemented in men's singles matches in certain circumstances, bringing it into line with the women's and junior singles.
"The well-being of all players at the Australian Open is our utmost priority and we have developed the Australian Open Heat Stress Scale after months of research and testing," tournament director Craig Tiley said.
"The AO Heat Stress Scale ranges from one to five with specific recommendations associated with each step of the scale — one denoting temperate playing conditions and five the suspension of play.
"Under the updated policy, 10-minute breaks can also be introduced into men's singles matches for the first time," Tiley said.
Tennis Australia chief medical officer Carolyn Broderick said the new scale utilises data on the effects of heat on the human body, including the maximum heat stress an athlete can safely withstand, the sweat rate of that person and their core temperature.
"The scale also accounts for the physiological variances between adults, wheelchair and junior athletes while also taking into account the four climate factors — air temperature, radiant heat or the strength of the sun, humidity and wind speed — which affect a player's ability to disperse heat from their body," Dr Broderick said.
Heat policy in action
When the readings reach four on the new scale before or during the first two sets of a match, the tournament referee will allow a 10-minute break between the second and third sets for all women's singles and junior singles matches, and a 15-minute break in wheelchair singles matches.
In men's matches, where the scale reaches four before or during the first three sets, a 10-minute break will be allowed after the third set.
If conditions reach five on the scale, the tournament referee can suspend the start of matches on outside courts.
All matches in progress will continue until an even number of games have been played in the current set, or the completion of a tie-break, before play is suspended.
Matches on the show courts — Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and Melbourne Arena — will stop after an even number of games in that set or the completion of the tie-break.
The tournament referee can then decide to close the roof for the rest of the match and following matches if the heat stays at extreme levels.