“For sure, you know, we took risk,” Monfils said, talking about health risks, not forehands down the line.
But Monfils, like so many others around the grounds on Thursday, managed to reach the finish even if Djokovic ended up the winner for the 15th time in their 15 matches, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.
There was a time, increasingly long ago, when Djokovic might have been the more vulnerable man on such a scorcher. Early in his career, before he changed his diet and underwent sinus surgery, he was the one who frequently wilted in the heat.
Djokovic acknowledged the school of thought that tennis players train to be able to sustain these kinds of conditions and should be rewarded. Jim Courier, when he won the 1993 Australian Open over Stefan Edberg on a torrid afternoon before there was an official heat policy, said he actually threatened not to play if officials closed the roof.
“I was never a big fan of playing in the heat, but I knew that it was advantageous for me versus some opponents,” Courier said on Thursday. “It was a matter of hating it less than my opponent.”
But Courier likes that the tournament referee has an official policy to work with now along with some latitude if common sense becomes a better guide. Djokovic made it clear that there was a limit to what players should be asked to suffer — a balance between needing to be fit and avoiding health risks.
Was that limit reached on Thursday?
“It was right at the limit,” he said before alluding to the business decisions made to guarantee that the show goes on. “Our sport has become an industry, like most of the other global sports. It’s more business than a sport. At times I mind that.”
Australian Open officials would argue that competitive fairness is also a factor. Close the roofs and the stars on the show courts get to play under cover while hoi polloi have to wait or play in the heat when play is again authorized.
But there should be no debate…