Gael Monfils had a tough time dealing with the heat in his loss to Novak Djokovic on Thursday. (AP)

Joel Drucker: None like It Hot - The Weather in Melbourne Has Been Brutal This Week

MELBOURNE—The joke about the weather in Melbourne is that it’s possible to face four seasons in a day. But no one was laughing yesterday. It had become blistering hot in Melbourne. During a second-round match between Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils Thursday afternoon, the temperature on the court exceeded 69 degrees Celsius—a mind-blowing 156 degrees Fahrenheit. Daytime attendance, 55,767 strong on a temperate Tuesday, dropped to 38,072 on Thursday.

For the fans that flocked to the Australian Open on Friday, watching the tennis was a treacherous option. The desired step was to find shade.

“You’ve got to expect something like this will happen at this tournament,” said Melissa, a Melbourne resident who’d brought her three children to the tournament on Friday.

Fortunately, a small fountain was nearby, available for a friendly douse of hands and hat. The large oval beer garden, regularly packed with spectators watching the tennis on a big screen, sat empty.

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Gael Monfils had a tough time dealing with the heat in his loss to Novak Djokovic on Thursday. (AP)

MELBOURNE—The joke about the weather in Melbourne is that it’s possible to face four seasons in a day. But no one was laughing yesterday. It had become blistering hot in Melbourne. During a second-round match between Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils Thursday afternoon, the temperature on the court exceeded 69 degrees Celsius—a mind-blowing 156 degrees Fahrenheit. Daytime attendance, 55,767 strong on a temperate Tuesday, dropped to 38,072 on Thursday.

For the fans that flocked to the Australian Open on Friday, watching the tennis was a treacherous option. The desired step was to find shade.

“You’ve got to expect something like this will happen at this tournament,” said Melissa, a Melbourne resident who’d brought her three children to the tournament on Friday.

Fortunately, a small fountain was nearby, available for a friendly douse of hands and hat. The large oval beer garden, regularly packed with spectators watching the tennis on a big screen, sat empty.

Each Slam has its own weather gestalt. At Roland Garros, weather affects the way the ball bounces off the clay—high-bouncing and fast on sunny days, sluggish and slow when it’s cold and overcast. Rain delays get Wimbledon’s schedule off the rails. And the US Open can vary, from oppressive humidity to patches of rain to even an early autumn mix of wind and chill.

Heat has long been the disruptor at the Australian Open. Severe temperatures don’t happen every year, but when they do, the oppressive aspect is significant.

“It was right at the limit,” said Djokovic.

“It was tough to breathe,” said Monfils.

Inside the player dining area, players and coaches of various generations pondered the situation. Legendary Aussie Tony Roche played his share of matches in oven-like conditions, including a 1969 Australian Open semi in Brisbane that he lost to Rod Laver by the eye-popping, unrepeatable score of 7-5, 22-20, 9-11, 1-6, 6-3.

“It was hotter that day,” said Roche. “But then again, it was played on grass,” a surface somewhat more gentle than contemporary hard courts.

Craig Boynton, coach of Sam Querrey and Stevie Johnson, said that, “Some players seem to have the DNA in them to handle heat. Others don’t. It’s usually better if you have three to five days to acclimate to this weather. But it was pretty nice this year in Brisbane and Auckland, which in a way was unfortunate.”

“I feel most of all for the players,” said Melissa’s father, Mel, a retired postal courier who’d watched the tournament as far back as the ‘60s. “It’s easier for us. We just watch and try to stay cool. They’ve got to play.”

Surely there would be dialogue, notes taken by player handlers for future meetings, discussions, perhaps even demands. But all that was talk. Most of all, as the tournament rolled on, it was all about action. Besides, the temperature was expected to drop from 42 degrees Celsius on Friday (107 Fahrenheit) to 26 on Saturday (78 Fahrenheit).

Read more articles by Joel Drucker

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