— Published 5 September 2023

Heat invites itself onto the courts

It’s hardly a scoop: global warming is threatening major international sporting events. In the long term, it could well force governing bodies to rethink their schedules and award criteria. The Associated Press took advantage of the US Open tennis tournament, currently taking place in New York, to carry out a highly detailed study of temperature trends at the four Grand Slam tournaments. It measured the thermal comfort index, which takes into account air temperature, humidity, sunlight and wind, at the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open since 1988, the first year in which the four tournaments attracted 128 players in the men’s and women’s tables. Collectively, maximum temperatures rose by almost 3 degrees. Not exactly spectacular. But the trend is becoming stronger and more alarming. Between 1988 and 1992, the ‘heat stress threshold’ (32 degrees) was reached on 7% of the days on which Grand Slam matches were played. Between 2018 and 2022, the figure rose to 16%. The study also reveals that the tournament with the highest rise in temperature is the Australian Open, held at the beginning of the year in Melbourne. Since 1988, the average temperature has risen by more than 3.5 degrees.