The Australian Open’s chief medical officer admitted playing conditions this week may not have been humane after Jamie Murray became the latest victim of Melbourne’s searing heat.
The Scot suffered heatstroke in the 40C-plus temperatures and needed extensive treatment after he and Australian partner John Peers won their first-round doubles match at Melbourne Park.
It was not clear whether the elder Murray brother would be able to carry on in the tournament even with a day of rest.
After beating Vincent Millot in his second-round singles match, Andy Murray said of his sibling: “I think he’s doing better. He went back to the hotel earlier. I spent an hour or so with him when I got here, and then checked up with him a couple of times.
“But he wasn’t in a great way. He was struggling for a good three or four hours after the match.
“We just tried to make sure someone was with him throughout the day. He drunk loads when he got off the court. He was finding it quite hard to eat. Hopefully, he’ll be fine (today).”
Jamie Murray was far from the only player to fall foul of the conditions, and there has been a fierce debate raging about whether play should have continued.
The tournament’s extreme heat policy was finally implemented just before 2pm, not long after Jamie had left court, with the temperature measured at 42C.
Whether to put the policy into effect is entirely at the discretion of tournament referee Wayne McKewen after a change in the rules. He uses the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature reading, which takes into account humidity and wind direction as well as heat.
He had been criticised for allowing play to continue throughout Tuesday and Wednesday despite temperatures soaring above 40C.
Chief medical officer Tim Wood defended the decision-making, saying: “We evolved on the high plains of Africa chasing antelope for eight hours under these conditions.
“There will be some players who complain, and no-one is saying it is terribly comfortable to play out there, but, from a medical perspective, we know that man is well adapted to exercising in the heat. Whether it is humane or not is a whole other issue.”
Play was delayed on uncovered courts for just over four hours because of the heat, with the roofs shut on Rod Laver and Hisense Arenas.