Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Australian Open Forming a Union a Way to Beat Heat

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Australian Open Forming a Union a Way to Beat Heat

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Based on reports emerging from the Australian Open, the conditions at tennis' first major of 2014 are akin to playing inside a toaster on the surface of the sun with a hair dryer in your face and an active volcano burbling beneath your feet. The temperature rose to 110 in Melbourne this week, at which point play was finally halted. In the days before, when the thermometer read a mere 108, a succession of players fainted, vomited and retired from their matches on account of the blistering heat. Caroline Wozniacki's water bottle melted, as did the soles of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's shoes.

Players have referred to the sauna-on-Mars setting as "inhumane" and "just too much." Per The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg, American Varvara Lepchenko said she was so dizzy she couldn't see the ball. Croatia's Ivan Dodig said he was afraid he "could maybe even die."

And yet, the Australian Open didn't pull players off the court until the tournament's fourth day. Even then, the tournament's "Extreme Heat Policy" mandated that they finish their current set before getting a reprieve.

Why are the players putting up with this brain-boiling insanity? The tournament lasts two weeks, and it surely could finish on time even if play gets halted on occasion to stave off spontaneous athletic combustion.

On Twitter, SI's Wertheim argued that this is "what happens when athletes don't have a bona fide union." Both the men's and women's tours feature players councils that have a voice in how those organizations are run, though nothing approaching the final say in on-court and off-court matters. (The Grand Slam tournaments are operated by yet another entity, the International Tennis Federation.) "Tennis players' inability/unwillingness to bargain collectively in a meaningful way has really been to their detriment," Wertheim wrote in 2011. "The schedule, benefits, travel costs, draw sizes, a pension, the percent of revenue the Grand Slams pay as prize money . …

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