Novak Djokovic makes plea for the health of the players to be put first at Australian Open


Novak Djokovic believes players are being asked to push themselves to the physical limit after sweltering conditions took their toll in Melbourne on Thursday.

The thermometer edged towards 40C in the shade as Djokovic and opponent Gael Monfils took to a sun-baked Rod Laver Arena for their second-round match, which the six-time champion eventually won 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-3.

The Australian Open has an extreme heat policy but it does not come into effect until the temperature hits 40C, while a decision on whether play continues also depends on the humidity.

Djokovic made a plea for the health of the players to be put first as Monfils complained of suffering heat-stroke.

Djokovic pleaded for the health of players to be put first.

He said: "You work and train hard to be able to sustain these kind of conditions, to be tough. But I think there is a limit, and that is a level of tolerance between being fit and being in danger in terms of health. It was right at the limit.

"Our sport has become an industry, like most of the other global sports. It's more business than a sport. At times, I don't like that. What is most important for us is our health and what happens after our career, after you're 30, 35. There are many players that are struggling.

Djokovic exceeded expectations after six months sidelined by an elbow problem during his opening round clash against Donald Young, but his latest display was much more of a patchy performance.

Djokovic had trouble with his remodelled service action, serving 11 double faults, and in the first set, in particular, made a succession of uncharacteristic mistakes.

He said: "I had a nervous start. I wasn't really comfortable at the very beginning. I can't blame conditions for my double faults. It's still that motion that I'm kind of getting used to.

"Being rusty at the beginning is something that you can also expect. I just have to accept it, embrace it, obviously hope for a better day tomorrow and next match."

Monfils suffered from heat-stroke in testing conditions.

Monfils began to really suffer during the second set, repeatedly doubling over and not even attempting to return serve during one game.

The Frenchman rated the conditions the toughest he has ever played in, saying: "For sure, we took a risk. I got super dizzy. I think I had a small heat-stroke for 40 minutes. I tried to cool down. But even with the ice towel, the water, I think my body was super warm."

"Honestly, good luck for the guys," he continued. "I trained this winter in Miami. It was pretty hot. I thought I was very good. I'm telling you, I was dying on the court for 40 minutes. Sometimes we put our body at risk. Just be smart. If you have to give up, it's not a shame."

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