Djokovic, Sabalenka Win 2023 Australian Open After Tournament Slammed By Extreme Heat

Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka were hot at the 2023 Australian Open in more ways than one. On Saturday, the Belarus-born Sabalenka won her first ever Grand Slam title by capturing the women’s singles crown by edging Elena Rybakina 4-6, 6-3, and 6-4. Meanwhile, Djokovic from Serbia brought in his 22nd Grand Slam title, tying him with Rafael Nadal for the most ever among men and leaving him one behind Serena Williams on the all-time list. Djokovic defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets, 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5), to capture his 10th Australian Open title. This was quite a different outcome from the 2022 Australian Open when Djokovic garnered a different title, “Novax Deportovic,” from some after he had refused to comply with Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine requirements and thus was deported. But these haven’t been the only hot takes from this year’s first Grand Slam tennis tournament.

No, there’s also been the hot button issue that’s brought out a lot of fans to this year’s edition of the annual tournament Down Under in Melbourne, Australia. In this case, we’re not talking about the fans with arms and legs. Rather, they’re the ones with blades that rotate and prompt you to say things like, “Luke, I am your father,” into them. You see, over the past two weeks, temperatures in Melbourne have climbed up to and above 36° Celsius, which would translate to about 96.8° Fahrenheit. That’s hot, but not in a Paris Hilton type of way. It’s been hot in a “need-to-enact-the-tennis-tournament’s-extreme-heat-policy” kind of way. In fact, it’s gotten so hot that tournament officials have had to halt matches in the outside courts at times during the tournament.

For example, here’s what the Australian Open tweeted out during the first week of play on January 16:

Yikes, you could call that some breaking news. As you can see, the tweet threat above referred to the AO Heat Stress Scale, indicating that it had first reached a four and then a five. AO, by the way, stands for Australian Open. This AO Heat Stress Scale was first implemented in 2019 because over the years the heat situation in Melbourne has not always been AOK. This Heat Stress Scale takes into consideration the following four climate factors: radiant heat, which is strength of the sun, air temperature in the shade, relative humidity, and wind speed. Throughout the tournament, Australian Open officials have kept track of all four factors and measurements of these factors at five different locations in the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct. This has included locations on court in Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and Melbourne Arena. All of these measurements then have contributes to the scale goes, which goes from a low of one (temperate playing conditions) up to a high of five (suspension of play).

As the tweet thread above showed, when the AO Heat Street Scale reaches a four, the Tournament Referee can allow various breaks in between sets, during which players can use showers or cooling rooms. It also showed how topping the scale at a five led to the suspension of matches in outside courts on January 16. Play could continue in the main arenas, though, since they had roofs that could be closed and air conditioning:

Not all players were cool with this Extreme Heat Policy though. In an article for CNN, Ben Morse had quoted Australian tennis player Jordan Thompson as telling the umpire when hearing that his match against J.J. Thompson would be suspended in the second set, “When has that ever happened? I’ve been here when it has been like 45 degrees! It is not going to be for hours.”

Keep in all that all this weather or not stuff at the 2023 Australian Open hasn’t been a heat of the moment thing. You see there’s been this thing called climate change that’s been affecting the entire world. You know the thing that a lot of politicians and business leaders have been telling you doesn’t exist or doesn’t merit immediate drastic action? Yeah, climate change is indeed a big public health problem, as demonstrated by more and more scientific evidence. And big public health problems like climate aren’t like zits, they simply don’t go away with time and hiding out for a while in the basement. Big public health problems kind of get worse and worse the longer that you go without doing much.

Australia, which is part of this world, has been feeling the sting of climate change, becoming more and more like an air fryer over the years. As a New South Wales government website indicates, temperatures in Australia have increased by an average of 1.44 ± 0.24 °C ever since the country began tracking such things in 1910. And its been progressive, not in a political sense but a statistics sense. Since 1950, every decade being warmer than the previous one. Things have been night and day too, meaning average temperatures in both the day and the night have continued to rise. In fact, 2019 proved to be Australia’s highest temperature year on record going 1.52°C above average.

The City of Melbourne website warns that “Our climate in Victoria has already warmed by 1°C. Temperature rise above 1.5°C will lead to major and irreversible damage to ecosystems. This is putting Melbourne’s coveted liveability in danger.” Melbourne has indeed been feeling the heat, experiencing hotter days and each year averaging 11 days greater than 35 degrees. In a little over two decades, this average could swell to 16 days, which would definitely not be swell for humans. For example, a 2009 heatwave resulted in a 46 per cent surge in ambulances being called and a 12 per cent bump in those going to emergency departments. This worsening situation prompted the City of Melbourne to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2019 that “acknowledges that temperature rise above 1.5°C will lead to major and irreversible damage to ecosystems.” And yes that’s the same year that the Australian Open began to implement their AO Heat Stress Scale.

Whether everyone will start taking climate change more seriously is an open question. But it’s not just an Open question. It makes you wonder what’s going to happen in the coming years with not only the Australian Open but outdoor sporting events around the world. Many political and business leaders seem to be treating climate change with the urgency of a cat being asked to serve a tennis ball. They are acting like they can’t be bothered and just waving at the problem. Djokovic and Sabalenka may have made some waves in this year’s edition of the Australian Open. But unless more urgent action is taken about climate change, expect more and more worse and worse heat waves in the future.