Marina Erakovic says there were players desperate for treatment all over the place in the women's locker room at the Australian Open yesterday.
It was one of the most gruelling days in the grand slam's history with the temperature reaching 43.4 degrees Celsius, and Erakovic admitted she failed to cope with the intense heat in her 6-4 6-0 singles defeat to Zarina Diyas from Kazakhstan.
Later she and her Chinese partner Zheng Jie along with their French opponents Alize Cornet and Caroline Garcia all feared for their safety as an electrical storm moved towards Melbourne Park.
After the storm passed, the players returned to the court with the French duo winning 6-3 6-3, ending a punishing and disappointing day for Erakovic that she's likely never to forget.
"It was probably the toughest, longest day I've ever had at a grand slam - I started at 7am and it's now 10.30pm," Erakovic told Fairfax Media shortly after her doubles match finished.
"The singles was a tough one. I came out a bit nervous, tight, and wasn't really connecting with my shots.
"I managed to get a few chances here and there, I just didn't capitalise and after that. I'll be honest, I really struggled with the heat.
"After every long rally it was really tough, but hats off to her, she made some pretty good shots.
"In the doubles we definitely had a good start, then hesitated a bit, they got back into it, started making more shots and then got the rain delay,
"When we came out again I tried to be more aggressive, but unfortunately they were still connecting pretty well, especially Garcia."
While it was disappointing for Erakovic to lose to Diyas in the singles, who at 152 in the world, is ranked exactly 100 places below the New Zealander, the hot weather was a major factor. Just over an hour after their match finished play was suspended on all outside courts because of the heat.
"It goes both ways and there's no denying that Diyas played a good match, but this rule that they have with the heat is very shady," she said, referring to the fact that it is at the tournament director's discretion when to suspend play because of the heat, rather than have a set temperature that would trigger a suspension.
"You should have seen the locker room after the first couple of matches," she said.
"It wasn't just me, there were girls being iced down because they were in a haze.
"They really have to set a rule. It's at someone's discretion to risk your health, isn't that great?"
Erakovic said she was also concerned there didn't seem to be any hurry to end play in the doubles match, despite the lightening strikes getting closer.
"In Florida there is a lot of lightening and usually there's a siren that goes off to tell everyone to get inside, and I was wondering if Melbourne had a siren," she said.
"But it was just the weirdest weather day ever. It was a little scary, but I'm glad we stopped because it was coming over us.
"The officials were saying that on court seven they've gone out to play so you'll be fine!"
With her involvement in the tournament ending, Erakovic says she'll return to Auckland briefly before heading back out on the circuit.
"I'm planning to play the Paris Indoors, so it will be a quick turnaround," she said.
"I think I'm in qualifying at the moment, but it's close and I might get in the main draw. After that it's Fed Cup and then most likely it's Doha and Dubai before Indian Wells and Miami."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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