Australian Open Diary, Day 4 and 5: Too hot to handle
The heat took a toll on the players on 18th and 19th January.
When i landed in Melbourne, i thought, "Well, this is not too bad." Two days later, on 18th January, afraid to step out of the media room at Melbourne Park, I'm thinking to myself, "Oh this is a little too bad."
Yes, it is the infamous Melbourne weather I am talking about. 39 degrees celsius on Thursday afternoon and 41 degrees celsius on Friday afternoon. I did not feel like leaving the comfort and the air-conditioning provided in the media centre. Hell, I didn't feel like stepping out to the balcony itself.
I just sat in my corner, watched most of the matches on TV, enjoyed a few Haagen-Dazs bars of ice cream, and attended the press conferences of those who struggled in the heat.
The Australian Open has a history of players retiring from their matches purely due to the heat. Whenever I saw this happen, I would wonder as to whether they are tough enough or not.
However, now when I actually experienced the brutal dry heat, I wonder as to how they continue to rally on for hours and hours on the court.
Amidst my cribbing of how how it was, I did manage to step out on a few occasions and watch Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils battle it out in what was quite a bizarre match. It looked like the heat had taken a toll on both the players, which led to the match being filled with unforced errors and double-faults.
In the end, Djokovic came out victorious in 4 sets and extended his head-to-head with Monfils to 15-0.Both the players admitted to it being one of the toughest matches they had played in their careers.
"Best of luck to the rest of the players" said Monfils at the post-match press conference.
Monfils also felt that the 25-second rule should have been relaxed in such a situation, where it was actually dangerous for the players to be out there on the court.
The roof probably should have been closed and one must think that the umpire did not do enough to help the players. However, both Djokovic and Monfils heaped praise on how the umpire conducted the match.
"The chair umpire was doing a good job today. He was really trying to participate in the game and understand what's happening. It is what it is. The rules are there and obviously you have to respect them. The chair umpire put in a lot of effort to understand what was happening. The game, and the conditions, etc. When a chair umpire does a job as he did today, I just have to say well done. It's not easy for him to sit out there and try to control both players and have that kind of tolerance," he said.
The double-faults, however, were not due to the conditions claimed Djokovic.
"I had a nervous start. I wasn't really comfortable at the very beginning. I can't blame conditions for the double faults. It is the service motion I am getting used to. I just had a rusty start. I have to accept it, embrace it and obviously hope for a better time next match," he continued.
On the other court, at around the same time, saw Juan Martin Del Potro battle it out to defeat rising star Karen Khachanov.
The heat took a toll on him as well as he took a medical time-out to treat his thigh, which looked injured.
However, he claimed that he would be fine and the reason for the injury was mainly the brutal conditions he had to play in.
The Indian contingent, who began their Australian Open journey during the day, felt the brunt of the heat as well. However, were unperturbed by the conditions as they all cruised to victory.
Leandar Paes, who is partnering fellow Indian Purav Raja, after winning their first round match, went on to upset the no. 5 seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in the third round.
He spoke about how each player was taking extra care after the match and how they were rehabilitating using ice baths and what not.
The weather did not cease much at night. The only difference was that the sun had disappeared, of course.
Luckily, the weather ceased on Friday evening and went from being 40 degrees celcius to 20 degrees celcius.
The two days I spent in the heat in Melbourne, I was able to empathise with the players for the first time. I had heard and seen so much about the brutal conditions, and having actually experienced it, my respect for those on court increased immensely.
An exciting 2nd week to look forward to
Saturday was a lot cooler and the the players found it easier to step out on court.
While Djokovic found it easy against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Del Potro was knocked out by a resurgent Tomas Berdych, who is looking to achieve his first ever Grand Slam title.
In the WTA event, Simona Halep won a rollercoaster encounter against Lauren Davis after defeating her 6-4, 4-6, 15-13 in a match which lasted nearly four hours.
On the other hand, Angelique Kerber was in sensational form against former world no.1 Maria Sharapova. The German defeated her rival in straight sets.
With the fourth round beginning today, the tournament looks well poised and set for a thrilling finish.
Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov are set to take on each other in what is the match-up of the tournament so far while Rafael Nadal will battle it out against Argentina's Diego Schwartzman in a bid to enter the quarter-finals.