Players slowly adjusting to the heat


Five years ago, with temperatures in Melbourne, Australia, soaring to 111 degrees, someone on the grounds had the clever idea to fry an egg on the court.

The egg cooked after 10 minutes or so. Sunny side up, anyone?

This year, though the heat hasn't quite reached that level, we're pretty confident you could forgo your stoves once again.

As we found out a day earlier, the players were feeling pretty toasty, too.

Peng Shuai vomited on court; Frank Dancevic collapsed and subsequently called the decision to play tennis "inhumane." A ball boy went down, too. And then there were so many ice bags distributed during changeovers that Tennis Australia reportedly had to import a glacier from Greenland to keep up with the demand.

But the irony is that after a record-tying nine retirements at any Slam in the opening round, none were attributed to the torrid conditions.

Here's your list:

Andrey Golubev (calf)
Alex Bogomolov Jr. (shoulder)
Tommy Haas (shoulder)
John Isner (foot)
Radek Stepanek (neck)
Julian Reister (no reason given)
Robin Haase (left leg cramps)
Bernard Tomic (groin)
Polona Hercog (right rib)

On Wednesday, with a high of 106.8 degrees -- about two degrees cooler than Day 2 Down Under -- we finally had our first official heat-related retirement. Ivan Dodig, who was up two sets to one but on the verge of dropping the fourth, said no mas. According to Simon Briggs of the Telegraph, Dodig said, "Today, 30 minutes after the match I could not walk. There was 10 people around me. I was thinking I could maybe even die here."

We can safely report Dodig survived.

For the most part, players seemed better prepared for the conditions that awaited them during the second day of this unyielding heat.

Ana Ivanovic basically said everyone just needs to, um, chill out.

"Well, it's obviously hard because sometimes you do lose a little bit of concentration and focus," the Serbian told reporters after her straight-sets win. "I think that's the downside. But, you know, it's the same for everyone. You just have to toughen it out.

"Sometimes it's hard to catch your breath. You have to find a way to cool yourself and stay hydrated. We've been playing in this heat for years now. Not every year we had this many days in a row. But it's something you expect to face when you come over here."

Serena Williams, who took the court right in the middle of the day, was a straight-sets winner.

"I think I probably feel it more in my head, not necessarily in my chest," she told reporters in her postmatch presser. "But so far I have been OK. I have been training for a long, long time in the heat in Florida as well as playing, I have been coming to Melbourne for years and years.

"So you just have to be ready for those hot conditions and just try to get through it."

The forecast calls for temperatures up to 111 degrees Thursday and 107 Friday. But fear not. Frigid air is on its way. On Saturday, the high will be in the neighborhood of 73 degrees.


Down and out -- again

A day after squandering a match point in a heartbreaking 4-hour, 18-minute loss, Lleyton Hewitt suited up to play tennis with 41-year-old compatriot Patrick Rafter.

It didn't go as planned.

They lost 6-4, 7-5 to American Eric Butorac and South African Raven Klaasen in the opening round in Australia.

Rafter, the two-time US Open champ, came out of retirement after 13 years.

Hewitt and Rafter are two of Australia's biggest tennis icons.

"As he said, he served very well," Hewitt told reporters, referring to his doubles partner. "After so many shoulder problems and surgeries, sometimes that's the toughest thing.

"That was obviously his strength today. Sort of kept us in it today, holding his tight service games."

Not everyone was as impressed with Rafter's game, though.

Goran Ivanisevic, who beat Rafter in one of the most famous Wimbledon finals in 2001, watched the match and apparently left his book of euphemisms at home.

Said Rafter, "[Goran] said it was F-ing bad, not just bad, it was really bad."

Short and sweet

Facing the searing heat, not many players were in the mood for a sun tan on Day 3. Of the 16 men's matches, only one went five sets. Florian Mayer upset the 14th seed, Mikhail Youzhny, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in 3 hours, 6 minutes.

Tommy Robredo went 3 hours, 32 minutes in a four-set win over Julien Benneteau.

On the women's side, Daniela Hantuchova did herself few favors by going 12-10 in 3 hours, 13 minutes.

His best Hulkamania imitation

Jerzy Janowicz beat Pablo Andujar in a tough four-setter Wednesday. To celebrate, the Polish whippersnapper ripped off his jersey a la Hulk Hogan.

Though Janowicz sported a fairly impressive six pack, he certainly didn't come close to matching the alleged 24-inch pythons of the six-time WWE champion.