Australian Open: Shockers in searing heat

Australian Open: Shockers in searing heat

The 2014 tennis Grand Slam season is underway. Another exciting fortnight down under should be in store, as the best in the game are competing for the Australian Open championship. REUTERS

As the temperature edged past 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) on Monday, the line at the frozen slushie stand was more than 30 deep and crowds were jostling to get in front of the giant fans blowing cool mist into the air. REUTERS

With plenty of Australians taking to the court today, a sea of green and gold supporters are braving the heat to cheer on the local hopes. Among that group are the "Fanatics" - the most hardcore of Australian tennis fans. They write and learn chants, spend hours carving out watermelons for hats, and they even have a code of ethics. REUTERS

The first Grand Slam of the season has usually been the most unpredictable over the years, especially on the men's side. That can be attributed to the extreme heat as well as some players not being in the best form after not playing for a couple of months. REUTERS

China's Li Na started the Australian Open like a woman on a mission on Monday by brutally dispatching Croatian teenager Ana Konjuh 6-2 6-0 in just over an hour. REUTERS

It wouldn't be the Australian Open without boisterous Aussies serenading Lleyton Hewitt with silly songs from the stands, oversize clown wigs, kangaroo costumes and, of course, the searing heat. REUTERS

Severe heat is expected throughout the opening days before a cool change is forecast to arrive over the weekend, testing the players' fitness and putting the tournament's heat policy under the microscope.Extreme heat is generally a fixture of the year's first grand slam but organisers have been reluctant to suspend matches. REUTERS

A promising start to the season for Venus Williams was undone in two-and-a-half hours on Monday as the 33-year-old crashed out of the Australian Open's opening round with a crushing defeat to her sister Serena's 2012 nemesis Ekaterina Makarova. REUTERS

The concern for tournament officials is how the stifling heat will affect the players, staff and fans and whether they'll be forced to invoke the extreme heat policy and suspend play on the outer courts and close the roof and turn on the air-conditioning at the two courts with retractable roofs, Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena. REUTERS

A fierce run of high temperatures saw outdoor matches suspended in 2009 with defending champion Novak Djokovic retiring citing heat exhaustion. By itself, heat is not enough for a suspension, with organisers using a wet bulb global temperature reading, which also factors in humidity, in making the decision. REUTERS

Former world no. 1 and five time grand slam singles champion Martina Hingis will be coaching Germany's Sabine Lisicki during the Australian Open. Hingis is already in Melbourne and has been seen hitting the courts with the big-serving German, who stunned Serena Williams to reach the finals at Wimbledon in July last year. There is no word on whether this collaboration will extend beyond the Australian Open. REUTERS

Top 10 seeds David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Stan Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet raced into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday, apparently eager to make the most of relatively mild conditions at Melbourne Park. REUTERS

Thai world number 88 Luksika Kumkhum sprang the biggest upset of the Australian Open's first day by bundling out sixth seed Petra Kvitova 6-2 1-6 6-4 in front of a frenetic crowd on Monday. REUTERS