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January 28, 2009
CRAIG TILEY: Just on the Australian Open's Extreme Heat Policy, I'd like to make a statement.
Just so everyone gets to understand and know, it's evolved over time. It was actually introduced the first time in 2003. From 2003 till now, 2009, it's changed. It has evolved. It's changed for a number of reasons.
One of the reasons has been considerable feedback from both the tours: The WTA and the ATP. The heat policy we have in place now, the new heat policy, first of all, is at the discretion of the referee. When the Extreme Heat Policy is evoked, the players will complete that set that they're on. At the conclusion of that set, they'll come off the court.
Now, the discretion that the referee uses is a Wet Bulb Globe measure. It's not a unit measure of temperature; it's a Wet Bulb Globe measure. That measure is a range of 31 to 32. It's important to know it's an index number.
Today, this afternoon, we reached that number, and consequently the referee evoked the heat policy, the Extreme Heat Policy, and then all the other actions followed and were put in place.
I think it's important to note also we're an outdoor championship. We take this very seriously. This is a clear indication of that. We have a bureau on-site that we get a minute-by-minute update of what the weather condition is. We don't make the decisions based on a forecast; we make the decisions based on what is actually happening. So this is something we do take seriously.
We are one of the only tournaments around the world that has an Extreme Heat Policy that's actually been implemented. We do this to protect the players and to protect their ability to perform optimally.
With that statement, I'll open it up to questions.
Q. Does the temperature make up the greater part of the weighting in the formula to get to that?
CRAIG TILEY: I'll hand it over to Bob.
BOB LEIGHTON: The formula takes into account the actual temperature and the humidity at the time required. There is actually an apparatus which measures this, but we don't have this in this country. We have a table relating to the actual temperature and the humidity. According to both of those we can get this Wet Bulb Globe measure.
Q. You had a situation today where one of the women played her entire match outdoors; the other one played one set outdoors and the rest indoors. Obviously Kuznetsova was not very happy. Is this something you may have to rethink again in the future, because now you're going to have a situation where one player will not have had to struggle in the heat as much playing again tomorrow?
CRAIG TILEY: Wayne, why don't you take that question.
WAYNE McKEWEN: On that, we look at quite a variable of different factors of when players are playing. We have players who play at night as opposed to players who play at day.
We want to implement the heat policy once it gets to a certain heat index reading. We don't want to be able to stop a match, close the roof, just because we feel it's more advantageous for one player.
CRAIG TILEY: Can I just add to that.
In this particular case, this is the second year of this new Extreme Heat Policy. If we were in the old Extreme Heat Policy, that match would have continued to its conclusion. And the feedback we got from the players at that point, if you all remember the Maria Sharapova match, that was not acceptable.
At the very least we conclude on that set. It's unfortunate that we reached this index, this measure, this Wet Bulb Globe measure, during the match.
Q. Craig, why does it have to be so complicated? Why can't common sense prevail in a situation like this? You look at the forecast this morning, close the roof from the start.
CRAIG TILEY: That's a fair question.
My first answer to that would be that we cannot make a decision on a forecast. If we had yesterday, for example, the forecast was to be in this condition, if we had made the decision yesterday on the forecast to close the roof, we would have been wrong, because the minute-by-minute forecast we receive from Bob told us actually there was a sea breeze coming, the temperature dropped by a number of degrees, the Wet Bulb Globe measure dropped, and we were not in an extreme heat situation.
When you're outside and feel the heat, there's many factors that go into the consideration. That's why we had this policy, in consultation with the tours, the WTA and the ATP, so we can protect, again, the optimal performance of the players.
Q. Craig, you just conceded in your previous answer that it was unfortunate that the roof had to be closed in the middle of a match because that's when it happened. Why can't there be a procedure where you avoid that happening?
CRAIG TILEY: Well, a couple things.
First of all, to reiterate again, we don't make a decision based on the forecast. Things can change. The weather does change. Again, clearly indicative of what happened yesterday.
We make a decision based on the actual numbers, and we use an evidence-based number - I'll have Tim make some comments on that here in a second - but a number of 31 to 33 as an index as a range. When we get to that point, we now need to evoke an Extreme Heat Policy. We were not at that point when the matches started.
It's also important to remember the feedback from the players. There's some players that say, Absolutely, we've trained for these conditions, been in the heat for five or six weeks before coming to Australia, we want to play in those conditions. Other players say, No, actually we don't want to play in those conditions, because they may not have gone through the same training procedure. These are all factors to be considered.
To be fair to all the players, we set a standard and we will adhere to that.
DR. TIM WOOD: The number has been derived from a number of research studies done over the last few years and also historically the numbers that we generated during the last few Opens where we've been measuring the Wet Bulb Globe index and measure have shown us that around 31 Wet Bulb Globe measure the players' performance starts to drop off. They take measures themselves. The brain has a self-protecting mechanism whereby once the brain perceives that the conditions are getting quite tough, then it will take measures to reduce the players' heat protection. In the case of tennis, they'll start changing the way they play.
We have monitored over the years, in conjunction with research, a PHD that was conducted looking at the issue of playing tennis in the heat, which tells us that it is perfectly safe for the players to play in Wet Bulb Globes of 31, 32, 33, but there are issues with performance that come into play.
So we have made this floating number of 31 to 33, at which Wayne, the tournament referee, will make decisions based on the time of day, the weather, as to whether or not the Extreme Heat Policy is implemented.
Q. About the only thing the leading women's players agree upon is that none of them had the slightest idea how this policy worked.
CRAIG TILEY: It is a concern. We've had this policy in place, this is the second year. It's actually on the player entry forms, as well as in the player guide, as well as with the tours. That's something we need to go back and look at and make sure we get the assistance of the tours in educating the players on exactly the policy.
Again, I think it's also important to note, as we did in 2007, listen to players and make the change. We'll do the same again this year. If the players feel that now that actually it's the first time they felt the policy implemented, they don't like it, what adjustment we can make, with the goal always of protecting the performance of the players.
Q. Have you had an official complaint?
CRAIG TILEY: No, we have not.
Q. Management, nothing?
CRAIG TILEY: No, we've not had an official complaint.
Q. Novak Djokovic requested to put his game during a night session. Why was it impossible to put him in a night session for recovery time?
CRAIG TILEY: That's a scheduling question, not related to the Extreme Heat Policy. As I explained the last day, we have a fair distribution of matches for all the top players particularly. If you play at night, the next rotation will be during the day. The same will happen following that. It was Novak's turn during the day.
Novak had made a scheduling request the week before to move from the night to the day. We honored that request with him. Then, in light of the match that he was scheduled to play, the time difference between the two, his rotation was due. We made some concessions. The concession we made was to give him a not-before-3:00. He knew at least at that time he would not be playing before that.
That's based on the fairness of the rotation of the schedule. We would significantly disadvantage other players, another couple players, if we did not do that.
Q. Was Hewitt scheduled to play in the afternoon last year when he played after his late match, he came back and played night the next day?
CRAIG TILEY: No. He was scheduled at night.
WAYNE McKEWEN: He was scheduled at night. I think due to the very late finish of that match, he was put on at night again.
Q. Is 2:30 not an exceptional circumstance that would lead to changing what is an established rotation pattern?
WAYNE McKEWEN: Not at this stage of the event, not in the second week. The first week, you've got a lot more flexibility. We have Hisense Arena in use where we can schedule matches a lot later in the day.
At night, second week, we like to vary leading into the finals to be fair to all players so that the key players that they get on for a night session, before coming into the quarterfinals onwards.
Q. Before we had the luxury of wonderful stadiums and roofs, the unfortunate elements of night play, which I think ruins schedules. Tennis tournaments used to be started and finished without anyone dying or having serious injury. Do you think we're pandering a little bit now, all these new-fangled Wet Bulb Globe things? Shouldn't we just play a tennis tournament out? People enter a tennis tournament, they know what the condition is going to be on certain days. Here it's going to be very hot. Shouldn't we just play the tournament; if it's an outdoor tournament, as you said it is, play it outdoors?
CRAIG TILEY: Let me make a quick comment, then I'll have Wayne add to that.
That's right. It is an outdoor tournament. We make every effort to keep it outdoors and every effort to keep it where you can continue to play. Again, that's the feedback we receive from the players. They want to be able to do that.
However, when the conditions reach such that it is extreme heat, the next step of feedback from the players, the next phase, is they would like us to put measures in place.
Measures are three phases:
Phase I is we bring out the ice vest. We make considerable extra measures on court to cool the players.
Phase II, we go into the WTA rule, which is on the women's side, a 10-minute break after the first two sets.
Then Phase III is evoking the Extreme Heat Policy.
Now, those are three phases we put in place in consultation with the players. Certainly there's a playing group that would just love to play the entire time, and there's a playing group that absolutely wants us to have that policy in place.
With all those factors taken into consideration, we have to make a decision in what we think is in the best interest of the fairness of the players.
WAYNE McKEWEN: Also just on that, when we did start talking about the Extreme Heat Policy, it wasn't just for the players, it was also for the ball kids, the officials on court. We've got extra procedures for them now in place, where we change rotations a lot quicker. We have more staff available for these particular situations.
Q. The standard of tennis that was displayed today until the roof was closed, it inevitably goes down when the heat is as oppressive as it is, viewers at home, viewers here suffer as a result of that. Is that not a consideration?
CRAIG TILEY: Tim, do you want to talk about the standard.
DR. TIM WOOD: From what you've observed, the evidence has shown to be the case. It's really up to a commercial decision, as well as the health. Because we've heard that the health is not going to be severely compromised, it really boils down to tournament organizers.
CRAIG TILEY: That's why we have that Wet Bulb Globe measure. When we reach that point, which the evidence shows, we reach that point, we're going to call the play. What happens is the performance deteriorates considerably.
Q. Would you describe the policy as a work in progress, given that it can only be tested in extreme conditions anyway?
CRAIG TILEY: Well, it's interesting that you ask that question, because we've had the policy in place for two years. This was the first year that it has actually been implemented, the new policy.
We will certainly, at the conclusion of the tournament, again get some feedback and see if it needs to be further adjusted.
Since 2003 it has evolved. We believe it's evolved to a point of being the most scientific, the most factual, the most evidence-based we've ever had before, as well as the adjustment in not having the players play in conditions where their performance is to a point where it's not just enjoyable for anyone.
Q. As it stands at the moment, is there any chance of you starting matches early tomorrow morning, possibly postponed?
WAYNE McKEWEN: We are starting juniors at 10:00, juniors and wheelchair events. They were scheduled to start at 11. With Rod Laver Arena, we've gone with the 11:00 start per usual. If we are in a Extreme Heat Policy situation, we can close the roof. We've also got Hisense Arena on standby. It's currently being used now to finish off matches that were scheduled outside.
Q. Has anyone today required medical attention for heat injuries or heat stress, however you might term it?
DR. TIM WOOD: We had a couple of junior players in. I should point out, there's a spectrum of illnesses that you get with heat. Most of us, if we go outside today, would feel unwell or not very comfortable. The players that we most commonly see are players who are suffering those similar symptoms.
The actual life-threatening heat stroke is an extremely rare event that occurs in sporting and non-sporting situations often at not very high ambient temperatures. It is considered there are individuals who are genetically predisposed to suffering catastrophic illness in the heat. So as a result we pay special attention if there are any situations that may arise.
The players we've seen have only had very mild heat illness without any need for intravenous rehydration or anything drastic like that.
Q. Has a decision been made as to whether the roof will be opened for tonight's matches?
CRAIG TILEY: We're close to that time. The match is currently still in progress. We haven't made that decision, no.
Q. If the roof is closed at the start of the match, it remains closed for the duration?
WAYNE McKEWEN: It will remain closed for that match, yes.
Q. Could open for the subsequent match?
WAYNE McKEWEN: It could, yes.
Q. Something that's baffled me for many years. You go to Wimbledon, No. 1 court is used throughout the tournament. You go to the US Open, Louis Armstrong is used throughout. Why do you stop using Hisense effectively from the beginning of the second week?
CRAIG TILEY: It's a scheduling question. You can take that.
WAYNE McKEWEN: Basically we would prefer to have a match on a smaller stadium that is full than a larger stadium with a couple of thousand spectators. It creates a better atmosphere for everyone. That's the main reason.
CRAIG TILEY: I think to add to that. We keep Hisense open, and we do use it in contingency plans like we are now, this week. Once we hit Tuesday, yesterday, now all our showcase matches are on Rod Laver, as far as the schedule goes. There's no need, in other words, to use Hisense.
Q. If the emphasis is to keep the tournament outdoors, then why at night if you start a match with the roof closed, why wouldn't you open it at the end of the set if that measure comes down to below where the policy suggests you have to close the roof?
WAYNE McKEWEN: Because we don't want to be opening a roof, stopping play, when we have conditions at the start which are ideal for the players. So rather than stop them, open the roof, there is no need for it. We'll continue with that.
CRAIG TILEY: To add to that. I think that's an unnecessarily added variable. In this decision-making matrix we have to do with the Extreme Heat Policy, there's many factors to consider. Just our explanation of them here today, you can see that, whether it be the Wet Bulb Globe measure or whether it be the players' preference, whether it be the scheduling gaps or the fairness of the scheduling rotation, these are all factors that we've got to take into careful consideration.
So we don't take these decisions lightly and we don't take them without significant consultation from the WTA and the ATP, and without the agreement from them on this policy.
With that we feel we have the right policy in place and it's something that we'll continue to look at. We are going to have some hot days still the next two days.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
End of FastScripts