On Thursday, former world number one, Novak Djokovic, defeated Gael Monfils at the Australian Open under conditions that were verging on unplayable.
The temperature at Melbourne Park reached 39 degrees, with a reflected court heat of 69 degrees Celsius.
On court, Monfils sought medical assistance for heat exhaustion, suffering from dizziness and stomach pain. Between points, he approached the chair umpire and warned he was on the brink of collapse.
“Monfils is physically in a daze right now,” the commentator said of the 193cm Frenchman, who stood saturated, head to toe.
Both men received time warnings for taking too long before changing ends, as they sat hunched with ice packs around their necks.
Monfils said after the match he was, “dying on the court for 40 minutes,” and both players “took risks” by subjecting themselves to that level of heat. “It was tough to breathe… it was the hardest I have [experienced]”, he said.
“I get super dizzy,” the 31-year-old added. “I think I have a small heatstroke for 40 minutes… I played two sets out of breath for nothing.”
Djokovic called the two hour and 45 minute match a, “danger in terms of health,” hinting that officials were more concerned about ticket sales than the well-being of players.
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Also on Thursday, Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza became so unwell as a result of the on-court temperature, she required a medical timeout.
There is an established process for when to suspend play at the Australian Open, known as the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature formula.
It takes into consideration temperature, wind speed, humidity and exposure to sunlight and and gauges how ‘comfortable’ the weather truly is. On Thursday, this number was not exceeded, and thus the Extreme Heat Policy was not initiated.
But what actually happens to the human body when exposed to heat that extreme? Are the effects as debilitating as Monfils describes?
Dr Peter Shearer, an emergency medicine expert at The Mount Sanai Hospital in New York, says your body naturally does a number of things in order to try and cool itself down. But as the temperature increases, and exposure to the sun is prolonged, “your body may lose that ability.”