Australian Oven: Melbourne on fire
Top tennis stars were put through a punishing workout at the Australian Open on Tuesday as temperatures soared towards record levels and threatened to disrupt a packed schedule on day two.
Top tennis stars were put through a punishing workout at the Australian Open on Tuesday as temperatures soared towards record levels and threatened to disrupt a packed schedule on day two. (All AP and AFP images)
With the mercury hitting 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) before play even started, players and fans were feeling the heat at Melbourne Park where 64 matches were on the agenda.
Officials are keeping a close eye on the heat and humidity -- and for signs of exhaustion among players -- as they weigh up whether to call off play and close the roofs on the centre and second court.
At Melbourne Park, the tennis venue near the centre of the state capital, unshaded seating areas lay largely empty as fans stayed out of the sun.
Ice packs and isotonic drinks remained in high demand as temperatures hit 41.5 Celsius in the early afternoon, but then dropped to 32 Celsius.
Volunteers handed out sunscreen as spectators entered the venue wearing sombreros, umbrella hats and sunglasses, and a young girl frolicked in a fountain to stay cool.
Temperatures are forecast to hit 43 Celsius, shy of Melbourne's January record of 45.6 Celsius during the notorious Black Friday bushfires of 1936.
High temperatures are expected to remain for most of the week, in similar conditions to the 2009 Black Saturday bushfire disaster which killed 173 and injured hundreds more.
The Australian Open is no stranger to extreme heat with many incidences in the past, but few occasions when play has been suspended.
Players draped themselves in ice towels and guzzled water on the changeovers with the thermometer hitting 40.5 Celsius (104.9 Fahrenheit) by early afternoon.