JUDY Murray yesterday called on tennis officials to allow male players to take breaks during matches contested in extreme temperatures, insisting that they have to play more sets than their female counterparts.
The veteran coach said the “heat break” applicable in the women’s game should be rolled out across the sport, especially in major events when the schedule is “incredibly physically and mentally draining”.
Her plea came on the hottest day of play recorded in Wimbledon history, as temperatures of 35.7C left players struggling and caused a ball boy to collapse on court.
Murray, Britain’s Fed Cup captain, was seen handing out refreshments to spectators waiting in the queue at SW19 before the day’s action got under way.
Under Women’s Tennis Association rules, a ten minute break can be taken between the second and third sets when the heat stress index rises above 30.1C, but no such provision exists in the men’s game via the Association of Tennis Professionals – something Murray believes must change.
She said: “I think the men should adopt it as well, especially because they have to play five sets. And a slam is such a tough thing to play in, I know you get a day in between matches but if you’re going to win a slam you need to play seven matches in 13 days.
“For the men working across the best of five sets it’s incredibly physically and mentally draining, so I think the men should take advantage of it as well.” John McEnroe, the three-time former Wimbledon champion, said there was a sexist element to denying men the same privileges afforded to women on tour. “Why would that be? Reverse sexism,” McEnroe said on ESPN.
He added: “The first year I played the French [Open], at two sets to one after a third set if either of the two players – even if it was 66 degrees and windy – wanted to take a ten-minute break you could.
“The tournament directors rule the ATP too much in my opinion. The players should rule it, as they should rule Wimbledon and the other majors.”
When fellow pundit and three-time former Wimbledon winner Chris Evert suggested the players could apply pressure, McEnroe said: “If we get them all together we could do something for this wonderful sport we have, including taking a ten-minutes break if it’s so hot here at Wimbledon.”
Heat readings are taken 30 minutes before play begins, then again at 2pm and 5pm, and the WTA rule is applied on a case-by-case basis before matches begin.
Wimbledon referee Andrew Jarrett said on Tuesday the WTA heat rule had been implemented twice before at SW19, in 2006 and 2009.
Australian player Bernard Tomic, who battled the conditions and a lack of sleep to reach the third round yesterday, said: “It’s a bit interesting how the women have a different rule applied to them with the heat. I think ours is slightly different. I think we are allowed to play in more heat. Is it fair? Who am I to say? I don’t know. It’s a tough one.”
Tomic added: “I was very dizzy out there. I didn’t sleep well yesterday and the day before. Probably getting three or four hours of sleep. I was fatigued and starting to get dizzy out there with the heat hitting me.”
The Met Office said a temperature of 35.7C was recorded at Kew Gardens – its nearest station to the All England Club – at 2:30pm. The previous record was 34.6C in the summer of 1976.
A ball boy collapsed and was taken to hospital as temperatures soared during a match on court 17 between Australian Matthew Ebden and American John Isner.
Afterwards, an All England Club spokesman said: “He’s sitting up and is conversant but has been sent to hospital for a precautionary check-up.”
Officials were again forced to limit the number of fans coming into the All England Club, while the Centre Court roof was closed before play started to protect the surface from the heat.