Remember Saturday night, when women’s runner up Simona Halep played for just under three hours in the heat? She also had to play for 3 hours and 47 minutes against American Lauren Davis in the heat of the day, with the Romanian claiming she was “almost dead” after the match. Not only that, but she played on Wednesday evening against sixth seed Karolina Pliskova and then the very next day session to beat 2016 champion Angelique Kerber 9-7 in the decider.
Regardless of all the battles the women’s #1 seed went through and the toll it was taking on her body, the Australian Open refused to play the women’s final indoors; instead they opted for a 10-minute break after the second set so Halep and Wozniacki could cool down in the locker rooms. Unfortunately, after the match Simona Halep was taken into hospital for dehydration, something I can’t say was too unsurprising given the scheduling and organising decisions she was subject to (photo in tweet).
— ESPN Tenis (@ESPNtenis) January 28, 2018
Or how about Novak Djokovic vs Gael Monfils in the second round? A match where the temperature reportedly reached 69 degrees Celsius on Rod Laver Arena. But even despite the flamboyant Frenchman looking like he was going to collapse on court and barely show any emotion at all, the Australian Open organisers refused to close the roof. The official Australian Open Twitter account actually went on to tweet this:
The health of our players is of paramount concern, but we need to be consistent with the outside courts so some don't get an unfair advantage. The referee will initiate the Extreme Heat Policy once the ambient temperature exceeds 40C & the Wet Bulb index (WBGT) exceeds 32.5C.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 18, 2018
They clearly state the “health of our players is of paramount concern.” Clearly not the case for evident reasons, some mentioned above. They have three roofs here in Melbourne. If they actually cared about players health, they would close the roofs on hot days and postpone outside court matches to the evening where they’re playable.
They also go on to say “so some don’t get an unfair advantage.” If this is true then why are some players being treated so badly with scheduling? Such as Halep having to play one evening then the very next day during the day, or how about all of Federer’s bigger rivals in his section of the draw playing during the day? No wonder the likes of Del Potro and David Goffin, the last man to beat the 36-year-old, lost. Maybe they would have lost early anyway, but the extreme heat made if far more likely.
When it comes to the men’s final, it’s clearly a completely different ball game to those in charge at the Australian Open. If you look at that tweet above again it clearly states the referee will initiate the extreme heat policy if temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius; the funny thing is today that wasn’t even the case, so why was the roof shut? The tournament did give the official explanation that the reason was because the WBGT was over 32.5, which they claim it hasn’t been above any other day of the tournament. That still doesn’t match up with the tweet, though.
The simple reason is two words: Roger Federer. For the second year in a row, the Swiss man was entering the championship match with five of his six matches having been played at night, with him even admitting he asks and wants evening matches when possible. On the other hand, Marin Cilic was coming into the final with just three of these matches being at night, one of those not even being on Rod Laver Arena.
The Croatian himself said he was “preparing for a hot day” and that playing with the roof closed “was difficult to adjust,” evidently shown with his horrid start to the final going down 0-4. He also claims the officials didn’t ask for his opinion on whether the final should have been played indoors, “They didn’t ask me. They just came to me to tell me that they are thinking about decision.” While all of this was happening and Marin Cilic was practicing for the final outdoors and defending champion Roger Federer indoors. Surely that’s not a coincidence?
Some of you might now be wondering why the Australian Open would choose to play the final indoors because of Roger Federer and that’s simple. As mentioned earlier, with the matches he’s had to make the final he’s played mostly at night thus being used to the cooler conditions, with the roof closed here that would keep the conditions cool even on a hot night–thus giving the Swiss man an advantage without having to adapt to rapidly different conditions despite it being indoors.
Furthermore, Federer has the best indoor record of any player born after 1961 and also the most indoor titles of any player in the history of tennis, highlighted by his six World Tour Finals titles. If you want Roger Federer to win a match, your safest bet is to have him play it indoors. Just look at the Wimbledon 2012 final for example, against Andy Murray. Once the rain came it was an insanely different match from the two previous sets.
Why is this the case? 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash said, “The way Roger plays and takes the ball so early means any wind making the ball move is detrimental to him,” not even mentioning that the Swiss’ serve is one of the best on tour and even harder to deal with indoors. It was always going to be a hard task for Marin Cilic to beat Roger Federer but the match being indoors was always going to make it nigh impossible.
Roger Federer also has more connections with the Australian Open than most others. His management company, TEAM8, was in association with Tennis Australia in creating the Laver Cup. Tennis Australia being the governing body of the Australian Open with CEO Craig Tiley being the director of the grand slam. This could have possibly led to favouritism for the six-time champion due to a conflict of interests. No wonder John McEnroe joked, “What’s the difference between privilege and blatant cheating?”
To conclude, it’s obvious, the reason the final was played indoors was to benefit Roger Federer. When it comes to every other player in the singles draws, no one gets the preferred treatment that Federer does. To win his last two titles here he’s played 12 of his 14 matches on Rod Laver Arena at night; while he is a superstar and tennis’ main attraction it’s somewhat expected, but to an extent such as this it’s simply unfair on his fellow competitors. Tennis will never be fair for everyone involved, but shouldn’t we at least be aiming to make it more fair?
The fact we didn’t get earlier round matches like Monfils vs Djokovic or the women’s final indoors is funny in itself, but when you consider we got the men’s final indoors for no good reason, and clearly in a way that benefited one of the finalists more, it’s truly laughable. They might as well just rename Rod Laver Arena to Roger Federer Arena soon as the bias clearly has no limit.
(Of course, this is all conjecture. The Australian Open would never admit this. But it honestly makes far more sense than any other explanation.)
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