Heat Wave at Australian Open to Break Saturday

By Eric Leister, Meteorologist
January 16, 2014; 4:01 AM
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Oppressive heat has marked the opening week of the Australian Open. The heat wave built across the region Monday, and temperatures soared to around 108 F (42 C) Tuesday through Friday, creating extreme conditions for both participants and spectators.

Relief from the sizzling temperatures was finally felt on Friday evening as a cold front moved through Victoria.

Sweat drips from the face of Rafael Nadal of Spain during a break in his first round match against Bernard Tomic of Australia during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft).

Friday marked the fourth day of extreme heat across the Melbourne area. This made it just the second such stretch in recorded history for Melbourne. The city had a five-day stretch of temperatures greater than 40 C in 1908.

The all-time record for Melbourne was Feb. 7, 2009, when the temperature climbed to 115.5 F (46.4 C).

Although two stadiums have retractable roofs, the heat has brought problems to spectators and players at the Australian Open, including a play suspension due to heat on Thursday. It was the first suspension since 2009, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

This nearly four-hour suspension of play followed torrid conditions Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to the Associated Press, a 10-minute break occurred after the second set in the match between No. 15-seeded Sabine Lisicki and Monica Niculesca on Tuesday.

Canadian Frank Dancevic collapsed during his match from heat-related illness on Tuesday. "It's hazardous to be out there. It's dangerous," Dancevic said, criticizing the tournament for not having suspended play. "Until somebody dies, they're just going to keep playing matches in this heat."

On Thursday evening, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Victorian Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells said that 970 people had been treated for heat exhaustion.

Frank Dancevic of Canada is protected from the direct sunlight after collapsing during his first round match against Benoit Paire of France in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

A ball girl was treated for heat stress on Tuesday, prompting the tournament to shorten the rotation of ball kids to 45 minutes.

Former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki said "It felt like I was playing in a sauna," and "I put the (water) bottle down on the court and it started melting a little bit underneath - the plastic. So you know it was warm."

No. 4-ranked Andy Murray stated, "It looks terrible for the whole sport when people are collapsing, ball kids are collapsing, people in the stands are collapsing."

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Fire Threat Accompanies Heat Relief

The threat for wildfires will be high on Friday across Victoria due to several days of dry, scorching weather. An increase in winds late in the day Friday as a cold front nears the region will aid in the spread of any ongoing fires.

AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Eric Wanenchak stated, "The cold front passage Friday night will be a double edged sword. Cooler temperatures will arrive Saturday but gusty winds late Friday could hamper fire fighting efforts."

In the wake of the cold front, winds will shift back off the water, resulting in highs around 72 F (22 C) both on Saturday and Sunday.

Much of Australia has been dealing with hot, dry weather over the past several weeks which resulted in fire warnings. Bushfires east of Perth have destroyed dozens of homes and caused one fatality, according to the AP.

The lightning is seen in the sky at an outside court at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

A bit of a warmup is expected later next week; however, any extreme heat during the second week of the tournament will be short-lived.

Meteorologists Alan Reppert and Dan DePodwin contributed to this story.

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