The action is hot—literally—and heavy at the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year. The 2014 Australian Open in Melbourne is still in its first two days of play, but there have already been a few noteworthy occurrences.
Let's take a look at the top stories developing thus far.
The Heat Is On
Temperatures in Melbourne have reached as high as 108 degrees on the court, and everyone involved in the matches are feeling the effects. Per Douglas Robson of USA Today, a ball boy has fainted, some players have complained of cramps, and at least one has vomited from the conditions.
Four matches on the men's side ended in retirements. Though the heat may not be solely to blame for this development, it isn't crazy to think it played a role in the matches that ended prematurely.
Deadspin tweeted this story of a player who claimed to see Snoopy in a heat-induced hallucination during his match:
It hit 108 degrees at the Australian Open, and it's absolute carnage. One player saw Snoopy in a hallucination: http://t.co/iqsxdy9vKC— Deadspin (@Deadspin) January 14, 2014
Per Robson, that player was Frank Dancevic. The Canadian dropped his first-round match in straight sets to Benoit Paire. He called the conditions "inhumane." He also added: "Until somebody dies they're just going to keep playing matches. For me, I personally don't think it's fair. I know a lot of players also don't think it's fair."
Hopefully it doesn't come to such an extreme, but officials would be wise to be proactive as opposed to reactive. This is especially the case since the heat wave is expected to continue over the next two to three days.
Every possible precaution should be taken to keep players and fans hydrated during these extreme conditions. Melissa Isaacson of ESPN.com reported:
The Australian Open has an extreme heat policy in place, in which play can be halted by the tournament referee and retractable roofs on the Rod Laver and Hisense arenas can be closed before or during play (and the air conditioning turned on) as calculated by something called the "wet bulb global temperature reading" or WBGT (don't ask).
Players are also permitted longer breaks, consultations with trainers and are cautioned against over-drinking
Hopefully these processes are enforced and utilized properly.
Rafael Nadal Gets a Huge Break
One of the first-round matches that ended early because of a retirement involved one of the tournament's favorites on the men's side. Unseeded Bernard Tomic forfeited after the first set against top seed Rafael Nadal.
Tomic called it a tournament after dropping the first set 6-4. This was almost the equivalent of a bye for Rafa.
With Nadal seemingly headed for a showdown with Novak Djokovic in the final, every bit of energy he's able to conserve early could help him remain fresh for what could be another epic match with his rival.
Each of their last seven head-to-head meetings in Grand Slam events has gone to four or five sets.
Big Names Advance
Only Radwanska and Azarenka seemed to struggle a bit in their opening matches. Radwanska dropped a set en route to victory, and Azarenka was extended to a tiebreaker in the first frame, but they have plenty of time to hit their stride.
The only major upset to occur in the first round was No. 6-seeded Petra Kvitova's loss to unseeded Luksika Kumkhum (2-6, 6-1, 4-6).
No other top-10 man or woman lost in the first round.
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