It’s never easy to be a professional tennis player, but some days are tougher than others. Thursday at the Aussie Open was definitely one of those days.
Reaching a scorching 69°C (156.2°F!) at one point on Rod Laver Arena, the only way conditions could have been more inhospitable was if the fans were equipped with vuvuzelas. Somehow, that wasn’t enough to close any of the three roofs under the tournament’s “Extreme Heat Policy” though.
Simply because the ambient temperature didn’t climb above 40°C, nor was the humidity sufficiently high, players and fans alike were left to suffer.
One only had to watch the match between Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils, where both men looked ready to keel over, and crowds in the sunny sections were almost non-existent to tell adhering to such strict guidelines was a bad idea.
Oddly enough Friday might actually be better, if only because with temperatures set to rise to 42°C, tournament organisers will have little choice. Still, let’s just hope they don’t wait too long to enact it, especially if the players are already wilting.
Here’s your three to see for day 5 at the Aussie Open:
Diego Schwartzman (ARG)  v Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) – 4th on Show Court 3
If you like your punishing heat with an additional side of punishing tennis, this is the match for you. Already this summer, Dolgopolov and Schwartzman have had one highly entertaining encounter — a 6-4, 7-6 win for Dolgopolov in Brisbane — and there’s no reason not to expect the same here. The two present a fascinating contrast in styles, as Schwartzman can be as unpredictable a defender as Dolgopolov is an attacker, which results in rallies with a delightful mix of power hitting, tempo-altering slice and even a bit of loopy junk. Throw in some sub-par serving, and it’s highly unlikely either man maintains the ascendancy long enough to completely put away the other, and that means you should expect an extra-innings corker.
Nick Kyrgios (AUS)  v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)  – 1st match, night session on Rod Laver Arena
Home crowd… excellent form… struggling opponent… circumstances could hardly be more favourable for Nick Kyrgios, and that’s why this has all the makings of one of his, *ahem* “unique experiences”. Further complicating matters is that his opponent is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who, even if he isn’t quite the player he was a few years ago, has definitely got the goods to trouble the mercurial Australian, and indeed managed to best him in a 7-6, 2-6, 6-4 affair in Marseille last February. On that occasion, the Frenchman was simply better at executing his brand of attacking tennis, and it’s likely that will be the deciding factor again here. Whoever wins, it might take a few hours and some entertainingly ill-advised tweeners to figure it out.
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)  v Anett Kontaveit (EST)  – 2nd match, night session on Margaret Court Arena
It’s already been a bit of a difficult tournament for French Open champ Ostapenko, and it’s not set to get any easier here. The 22-year-old Kontaveit doesn’t have the trophy cabinet to match Ostapenko’s, but she’s got an impressive list of scalps, including the Latvian’s – albeit two-and-a-half years ago when both were still playing 10Ks. If Ostapenko wants to turn the tables, she’ll need to dominate the first-strike points and keep Kontaveit from making her way close enough to the baseline to mount her own offensives, but it wouldn’t be a shock if the world no. 33 is the one more consistently applying pressure. Expect plenty of winners, a few head-scratchers, and three sets of highly entertaining tennis.