PICTURES

Tennis: Record number of pull-outs as Australia Open swelters

Kenny De Schepper of France covers his head with an ice vest during a break in play in his men's singles match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Kenny De Schepper of France covers his head with an ice vest during a break in play in his men's singles match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Savine Lisicki of Germany applies ice packs between games against Monica Niculescu of Romania during their women's singles second round match on day three of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Savine Lisicki of Germany applies ice packs between games against Monica Niculescu of Romania during their women's singles second round match on day three of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Richard Gasquet of France applies an ice pack against the heat between games against Nikolay Davydenko of Russia during their men's singles second round match on day three of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. --
Richard Gasquet of France applies an ice pack against the heat between games against Nikolay Davydenko of Russia during their men's singles second round match on day three of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Richard Gasquet of France holds a bag of ice to his chest during a break in play in his men's singles match against Nikolay Davydenko of Russia at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Richard Gasquet of France holds a bag of ice to his chest during a break in play in his men's singles match against Nikolay Davydenko of Russia at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
 A man seeks relief from the heat during second round action on day three of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
 A man seeks relief from the heat during second round action on day three of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand receives treatment during a medical timeout in her women's singles match against Mona Barthel of Germany at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. The heat-baked Australian Open has b
Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand receives treatment during a medical timeout in her women's singles match against Mona Barthel of Germany at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 15, 2014. The heat-baked Australian Open has been hit by a record number of pull-outs, organisers said on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014, as temperatures hovered around 40 deg C for a second straight day. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE (AFP) - The heat-baked Australian Open has been hit by a record number of pull-outs, organisers said on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014, as temperatures hovered around 40 deg C for a second straight day.

After a first round overshadowed by the sight of players fainting and vomiting in the heat, nine players either retired or forfeited their matches, according to an official tally.

The total is the highest in one round at the Australian Open and equals the Grand Slam Open-era record, matching the first round at the 2011 US Open and Wimbledon's second round last year.

Although most of the players cited injuries, Dutch player Robin Haase went out with cramp, which is often set off by high heat.

Canada's Frank Dancevic, who fainted during his loss to Benoit Paire, said it was easier for players to suffer injuries when affected by the heat.

"I think when you're running around on court quite dizzy, you're more prone to getting injured also," Dancevic said. "You can't play the way you want to play, you can't move the way you want to.

"For sure, it can make players have injuries."

It is also difficult to quantify how much players weighed the difficult conditions as a factor when deciding to call it quits.

Slovenia's Polona Hercog raised eyebrows when she retired with a rib injury after winning just one point against Alize Cornet. All players received US$30,000 (S$38,000) for contesting the first round.

Playing conditions remain in sharp focus with temperatures forecast to return to 41 deg C on Wednesday and stay high on Thursday and Friday before cooler weather sets in.

Dancevic blasted the conditions as "inhumane", while Britain's Andy Murray warned organisers were risking a serious incident by letting play continue.

"Whether it's safe or not, I don't know. You've just got to be very careful these days," said the Wimbledon champion.

"There's been some issues in other sports with, you know, players having heart attacks. I don't know exactly why that is. Or collapsing."

Tournament referee Wayne McKewen said while conditions were "hot and uncomfortable" they were not dangerous because humidity remained low.

And chief medical officer Tim Wood said: "Of course there were a few players who experienced heat-related illness or discomfort, but none required significant medical intervention after they had completed their match."

Also among Tuesday's sufferers was China's Peng Shuai, who vomited and cramped up during her first-round loss to Kurumi Nara of Japan.