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  • 16 January 2014, 13:44

Australian Open Tennis Halted By Extreme Heat

Tennis players at the Australian Open have spoken about the difficulties of competing in blistering temperatures, with some arguing matches should not have started in the first place.

As large parts of the country sweltered in a heat wave, play was halted for several hours on outer courts at Melbourne Park after organisers implemented the Extreme Heat Policy as the mercury hit 43.4C (110F).

Matches on the main show courts continued after the retractable roofs were closed.

There had been criticism of the decision on previous days to allow play to continue in searing temperatures.

Australian Open bosses invoked part of the special conditions before play began, allowing women's matches to have an extended break after the second set and players to wear ice vests during changeovers.

However, with players having to finish their set before play ceased or the roofs were closed, Maria Sharapova's match on Rod Laver Arena continued in the full glare of the sun for 50 minutes.

The third seed eventually beat Italian Karin Knapp 6-3 4-6 10-8 to reach the third round.

Sharapova said: "There is no way getting around the fact that the conditions were extremely difficult, and have been for the last few days."

Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Olga Govortsova 6-0 7-5 under a closed roof, said: "Some of the girls can't even talk after the match or practice."

Varvara Lepchenko was the player to struggle most, the American taking a medical time-out during the second set of her second-round match against Simona Halep.

Lepchenko lay down across two chairs while a doctor examined her and had ice rubbed over her body before continuing.

Having won the first set she managed only one more game in a 4-6 6-0 6-1 defeat.

Lepchenko said: "I think they definitely should have just not started the matches in the first place. In the second set I couldn't focus on my returns, I couldn't see the ball."

The hot weather is forecast to continue into Friday before a dramatic drop in temperatures at the weekend.

In the meantime, health officials have urged residents to keep cool.

"We need to respect the heat. This is a serious event. It's not normal and it's unprecedented," Paul Holman of the Victoria State Ambulance Service told reporters in Melbourne.

Climate scientists have warned the extreme, sustained heat is likely to become more common in Australia.

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