Australian Open: Delay start times to combat heat, says Barry Cowan
Barry Cowan blogs on tennis in searing heat and why Andy Murray should master Feliciano Lopez.
By Barry Cowan
Last Updated: 17/01/14 1:56pm
Before the tournament was moved from grass to hard courts in 1988, at least 50 per cent of entrants were serve-volleyers but now, with most players baseliners, matches regularly go three or four hours long.
I think that is why we have seen players fainting and struggling with the soaring temperatures and it puts the organisers in a difficult position because it is hard to know where to draw the line.
It is over 40 degrees in Australia and that is very tough but playing in 35 degrees in New York, Washington or Asia, when there is also the humidity to contend with, can be absolutely brutal and players do that enough.
You can play at night in Melbourne so I would advocate starting slightly later in the day to combat the heat - sadly something we will ever experience in Britain! - but I do feel that lower-ranked players will always suffer more than the top guys in this respect.
Match days are always more pressure-filled than training days and that is doubly true for the lesser names as they are unused to playing on the big stage in front of screaming fans.
Andy Murray's display against Vincent Millot, meanwhile, was average but he won and he did it without dropping a set - although things got a little dicey in the third - so he will be very content with where he is at.
Murray takes on Feliciano Lopez next and while on a slow hard court I would back Andy 100 times out of 100, on a surface as quick as this the Spaniard has the firepower to cause a few problems.
Eighteen months ago when Andy won the US Open, he had real four-set dogfight with Lopez in the third round and if he is not fully focussed and playing his best tennis he can lose, which you couldn't say against Millot.
I have seen Lopez play some unbelievable attacking tennis and he needs to do that again if he is to have any chance of beating Murray and make the fourth round in Melbourne for only the second time.
Feliciano has to be prepared to get passed and understand he may be made to look silly at the net at times because that is his best bet; he is not going to beat Murray trading from the back.
However, Andy likes playing lefties - Rafa Nadal aside - because they put the ball into his phenomenal backhand return, as his 7-0 head-to-head record with Lopez will testify, so I am backing him to come through.
Maria Sharapova has been out for a while with a shoulder injury and, possibly more than any other player in either the men's and women's games, needs matches.
So it is by no means a disaster that she had an epic three-setter with Karin Knapp in round two that lasted almost three-and-a-half hours - but I think fatigue will catch up with her in this tournament.
Maria does not seem to have the ability to start off scratchily in an event and then click into gear, a trait Serena Willams has in droves, which makes me think she might not add a second Australian Open trophy to her cabinet this week.
However, Sharapova certainly looks a lot happier mentally than she did in 2013 and I think the injury lay-off has allowed her to recharge her batteries, while she will always be a threat because she is such a great fighter.
Maria has only won one major since 2008 - the 2012 French Open which gave her the career Grand Slam - but I don't think we can call that an underachievement because she has had to contend with a dominant Serena.
Perhaps Sharapova doesn't have the movement, the dexterity or the big first serve of the top girls, but she makes up for that in heart and if Williams was not so good she may have eight, rather than four, Grand Slam titles to her name.