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Australian Open Unveils New Policy

November 13, 2002 GMT

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ You don’t have to be a scientist to figure out the Australian Open’s extreme heat policy, but it might help.

Organizers of the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of 2003 announced Wednesday that the event’s ``Extreme Heat Policy″ had been changed to include a combination of air temperature and the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT), which they said is acknowledged medically as the best measure of heat stress.

The policy was brought in to protect players from extreme heat and humidity that often hits the Australian Open during its traditional January tournament slot. This year’s Australian Open is scheduled from Jan. 13-26.

In 2003, any outdoor matches will be suspended if the air temperature reaches 95 degrees Fahrenheit, but only if there is a WBGT of 28 or above.

Australian Open officials said he Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is a combination of ambient air temperature, humidity, intensity of solar radiation and wind speed ``which together affect the ability of an individual to lose heat whether exercising or sitting still.″

The suspended matches will be played as soon as possible after conditions cool if time permits. On Rod Laver Arena and Vodafone Arena, where there are retractable roofs, the roofs would be closed for any subsequent match in those conditions.

Any match which is already in progress will be continued until its completion.

Organizers said the wet bulb globe temperature inclusion as part of the extreme heat policy is a move away from relying solely on the air temperature which has seen a steady reduction from 100 degrees in 2002 and 104 degrees when the policy was introduced in 1998.

``We have a responsibility to ensure we are looking after the best interests of everyone coming to the tournament, whether as players, spectators or our on-court officials, particularly ballpersons,″ said Australian Open chief executive Paul McNamee.

Ice vests will be available on court during matches on days when the weather office’s official forecast indicates a WBGT equal to 28 or above. Players are allowed to put the ice vests on at changes of end to cool down or during a medical time out.