TENNIS: Extreme weather conditions at the Australian Open isn't something new but scheduling conflict drama for tennis' biggest stars might be.
Defending Aussie Open champion Roger Federer admitted he was "possibly" handed special treatment by those in charge of time of play when the No.2 seed beat Thursday's stifling heat with the final night match on Rod Laver Arena, breezing past Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets. AFterwards, he suggested other players shuold stop complaining about the heat.
Federer admitted that it wasn't his call to dictate what time he'd play but admitted he requested not to play during the day, where temperatures rose to 103 degrees with on court temperatures feeling as high as 140 degrees during the day's worst stretches.
"There's maybe 60 guys asking for stuff, so I'm one of those guys, yes," Federer said after his second round match. "Possibly (I had extra leverage). But it's not my call.
"There's other guys out there like Novak (Djokovic). Other guys they'll listen to like the Aussies. There's TV stuff as well, I don't know what you guys ask for at night."
Former US Open champion Andy Roddick weighed in, suggesting it was standard practice for an event to look after its biggest stars:
He said players had no real right to feel aggrieved at being lower priority than Federer.
Djokovic battled Gael Monfils during the worst of the day's heat, winning 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-3 in four eventful sets where Monfils suspected he suffered a heat stroke for about 40 minutes after he started feeling "super dizzy" during the match.
ESPN commentator Chris Fowler reported Djokovic requested to play during the day, an odd call considering the six-time Australian Open champion hadn't played professional competition for nearly six months, and a claim Djokovic denied.
"Did I request? No," he said following the Monfils match. "I think it was just, you know, whatever they put me."
As for the match itself, Djokovic said the match went just about how it would when playing under insane conditions.
"The conditions were brutal. We both struggled," he said. "Maybe he struggled a bit more at the end of the second set, entire third set. That's where I managed to get on top of him. It was a big challenge for both of us to be able to finish the match."
Djokovic said the match's conditions pushed him "right at the limit" physically and mentally and called for the sport's authorities to look more closely at its players.
"Our sport has become an industry," Djovokic, who'll play 21st-seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Friday, said. "It's more business than a sport.
"At times I don't like that. Of course we're all blessed to have great financial compensation, great lives. I'm very grateful for that.
"At the same time, what is most important for us is our health and what happens after our careers, after you're 30, 35. There are many players [who] can't physically walk, run, jog, whatever. They're struggling some way or another, health-wise or physiologically.
"You have to understand what the player goes through. There is no indication that we're going to have any discussion for a shorter season or anything like it. We're just adding events, official events, unofficial events.
"It feels, from a player's perspective, that you're always in a rush. You're always obliged to play the mandatory events. You have always a big challenge to defend points because it affects everything. You're always constantly, week after week, being part of that dynamic of our sport. At times it seem a bit too much.
"But it's our choice at the same time. So I don't want to sound ungrateful. On the contrary, I'm very grateful. But I also think that there should be some kind of rational conversation about rules that are maybe imposed or certain things that are concerning players' well-being."
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