A ball boy was hospitalised and spectators and players struggled to cope with the hottest temperatures in Wimbledon history on Wednesday, as at least one senior player questioned why female competitors are allowed to take a break during very hot matches but male players are not.
Temperatures at the All England Club soared to 35.7C, more than the previous record of 34.6C set during the scorching summer of 1976.
Australian Bernard Tomic, a Wimbledon quarter finalist in 2011, was forced to call for treatment after feeling dizzy because of the heat during his early afternoon match.
Asked about Wimbledon’s “heat rule”, under which female players can ask for a 10-minute break after two sets on exceptionally hot days but men cannot, he said the topic had become a subject of discussion in the men’s locker room.
“It’s a bit interesting how the women have a different rule applied to them with the heat.
“Is it fair or not? Who am I to say? I don’t know. It’s a tough one.”
His comments followed remarks earlier in the day by Judy Murray, mother of the number 3 seed Andy, and captain of Britain’s Federation Cup team, who said: “I think the men should adopt it as well, especially because they have to play best-of-five sets and a slam is such a tough thing to play.”
As temperatures climbed in early afternoon, a ball boy collapsed during a match and had to be treated on court; he was later sent to hospital as a precaution.
Ball boys’ and girls’ shifts have been reduced from an hour to 45 mins in recognition of the heat, a club spokesman said, while they have also been issued with caps with flaps of fabric at the back for added sun protection.
While tennis fans sought out what sheltered spots they could find, one group of spectators enjoyed the day’s play in guaranteed shade, as the club partially closed the roof of Centre Court to screen the royal box – on Wednesday playing host to the Duke of Kent, the Duchess of Gloucester and Sir Bruce Forsyth.
Despite closing the roof on Wednesday morning to protect the grass, Wimbledon insists that as “an outdoor, daytime tournament” it will never do so to shield players and ordinary spectators from the heat.
The special treatment for those in the royal box reflected the fact that previous Centre Court roofs had always included a canopy over distinguished guests, the club said.
The Australian Open, by contrast, occasionally shuts its three stadium roofs in extreme temperatures for the sake of those inside. The Melbourne tournament sent a series of mocking tweets on its official Twitter feed yesterday jokingly offering Wimbledon use of its fountains and large fans.
Wimbledon’s heat rule is a reflection of differing policies on the men’s and women’s tours; the Women’s Tennis Association introduced the measure in 1992 while the male ATP tour has never done so. It allows female players who are entering a third set to request a 10-minute break if conditions on court are above a certain level of heat and humidity. (Wimbledon’s conditions on Wednesday were not judged by the referee’s office to have met that level.)
Despite the discomfort of her compatriot Tomic, Anne Iron from Brisbane and her daughter Jane, standing in an already sweaty queue at 9am to enter the grounds, said they were untroubled by the temperatures.
“We just know how to prepare,” she said, explaining that that meant “lots of sun cream, lots of water, take a brolly, wear a hat.”
Britons had got better at preparing for hot weather, said her daughter, Jane, who lives in London, but “I love how people say they have a bit of colour, when they are actually sunburnt.
“They like the heat for about two days and then they start complaining.”
This article was written by Esther Addley, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 1st July 2015 19.02 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010