MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The scorching weather at the Australian Open finally brought play to a halt on Thursday afternoon when the temperature topped 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) and the Extreme Heat Policy was enforced.
Matches on the outer courts were stopped at the end of sets that were in progress when the policy went into effect. Play was not scheduled to restart until 5 p.m. local time.
The retractable roofs at Rod Laver and Hisense arenas were also closed at the completion of the sets in progress, with play to resume afterward on the two show courts.
Third-seeded Maria Sharapova was locked in a tough third set against Italian Karin Knapp at Rod Laver Arena when the heat policy was enacted, meaning she had to complete her match in the blazing sun.
Temperatures continued to rise and were forecast to reach 44 Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) at Melbourne Park later Thursday.
Some players wilted in the heat. American Varvara Lepchenko received medical treatment during the second set of her match against 11th-seeded Romanian Simona Halep, lying flat on her back during a changeover as trainers rubbed iced on her body.
"At first I didn't understand what was going on but then my legs, my arms started to get heavier. I couldn't focus at one point and started feeling dizzier and dizzier," she said. She continued but only won one more game in a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 defeat.
"They definitely should have just not started the matches in the first place," she said.
No. 25 Alize Cornet of France sobbed on court after her draining 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Italian Camila Giorgi, which ended after 2½ hours.
"I went really further than my limits," she said in her on-court interview. "It was really hot, that's why I'm so emotional.
"Doing something physical in this heat it's just unbelievable — Even you guys (in the crowd) sitting in the sun, it must be terrible."
The seats with no shade on the outer courts were virtually empty, with spectators congregating instead under trees on the sides of courts or in the upper reaches of stands where temporary covers provided a little relief.
New Zealander Helen Naylor escaped the sun after watching fellow Kiwi Marina Erakovic play part of a set against Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas on Court 13.
"Even the seats are really hot so I've got an overheated bum, which is not very comfortable," she said. "God knows how (the players) are running around out there."