Sharapova hits out at heat policy
Picture: REUTERS.

Russian star Maria Sharapova has called for an overhaul of the Australian Open extreme heat rule and for players to be better informed by officials after baking through three sets at Rod Laver Arena today.

Sharapova beat Italy's Karin Knapp 6-3 4-6 10-8 in three hours and 28 minutes. But the last 45 minutes of the match were played in the blistering 42 degree sun despite the extreme heat policy being implemented.

That policy allowed for the roof to be closed and play to be suspended on outside courts, but only once the set being played had been completed.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga played under the roof at Hisense Arena at the same time and several matches outside were stopped.

Sharapova said the rule made no sense when the deciding sets didn't include tie breaks.

"I think in the third set for the women and the fifth set for the men, if you know that there is no tiebreaker, officials can't just rely on maybe the set will go fast and the set will be over and will we will be off court, because we have no tiebreaker in that last set. So that's what you have to consider," she said.

"If it was a tiebreaker it would have been over quicker, but you can just keep going."

Temperatures at Melbourne Park peaked at 43.4 degrees and matches on outside courts have been suspended until 3pm WST.

Sharapova said the players were under extreme pressure because of the heat and the time limits between points - which haven't been extended.

She criticised Australian Open officials for failing to inform the players about the heat rules and said the first time she received any email about the issue was while recovering from the match in an ice bath.

"No one really knows what the limit is," she said.

"Not the players; the trainers themselves, when you ask them, 'when will the roof be closed?' no one actually knows what that number is in comparison to humidity or the actual heat.

"Sometimes you wish you know, because it just depends on I'm not sure who, a referee or the meteorologist, and there are just a lot of questions in the air that maybe, you know, should be solved.

"Because I asked the trainer the other day, 'What does it take for the roof to be closed or matches to be stopped?' She said, 'We have no control over this.'

"I would love to know a bit more detail not even before I get on the court, but just in general it's good to know. I didn't even know there was no play when I left the court.

"I mean, I had no idea. But it seems a little strange that the WTA tour trainers don't know what that threshold is."

The West Australian

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