Researchers want the Open dates be moved

Players have described the hot conditions at the Australian Open as brutal.
Players have described the hot conditions at the Australian Open as brutal.

The Australian Open should be moved to a shoulder season or extended by a week to avoid extreme heat risks for players, Victorian researchers have suggested.

Players have described the hot conditions at the Australian Open as brutal, while four-time winner Andre Agassi likened the experience to "playing in a giant kiln".

Monash University researchers have found health risks and match disruptions are an increasing risk because of climate change and that the event should adapt to protect players.

They found Tennis Australia has an opportunity to make a statement to the world on climate action and to safeguard the event.

Moving the Australian grand slam to November or March is one suggested option, a report for the Australian Conservation Foundation released on Monday said.

But that could cause immediate issues for tennis officials and their jammed-packed schedule, while long-term modelling suggests temperatures in those months will be as high as they are currently in January, by 2060.

An alternative could be to extend the event by a week, reducing playing time during the hottest part of the day.

But researchers noted in the "Love 40 Degrees?" report that current Victorians school holidays end after the event and that extending the tournament could affect ticketing.

"While neither option is without risk, this is the unfortunate reality of outdoor sports in a changing climate," the researchers from Monash's Climate Change Communication Research Hub said.

Tennis Australia last year signed on to the United Nation's Sports for Climate Action Framework and established a sustainability business unit to "encourage a culture of sustainability" and plans to assess carbon impact during this year's tournament.

Researchers noted a "significant increase" in average daytime temperatures and extreme heat days in the tournament's 115-day history.

The Australian Open became the first grand slam tournament to implement a heat policy in 1998.

It was replaced last year with a new policy based on radiant heat, humidity, air temperature and wind speed data recorded around Melbourne Park.

It uses increased hydration, cooling strategies and extended breaks as steps to address heat stress before suspending play in the worst conditions.

Researchers said Tennis Australia and Australian Open organisers declined to tell them whether they have a tracking system for days when play was delayed or abandoned because of extreme heat, per season.

Last year, play was suspended on one day. A year earlier, court surface temperatures reached 69C.

In 2014, play continued on four days when temperatures were above 41C. Nine players withdrew and more than 1000 attendees were treated for heat-related illnesses.

The report also notes the effect bushfire smoke can have on players, impacting their performance and long-term health.

Australian Associated Press