WHENEVER I hear professional sportsmen and women complaining about weather conditions, the saying “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” comes to mind.
But when Victoria Azarenka described the experience of playing her first round Australian Open match in 42C as like “dancing in a frying pan” I hate to say it, but she’s probably got a point.
Canadian Frank Dancevic, who collapsed from heat exhaustion during his opening match in Melbourne, said the tournament director’s decision to make them play on was “inhumane”, while Ivan Dodig, who retired from his second-round match, said he feared he might die.
The problem anyone has who enjoys the privileged position of being able to play a game they love for money is that most fans have very little sympathy.
“It’s their job, they get paid well, it’s the same for everyone, so shut up and get on with it,” is a common refrain.
Andy Murray is a case in point – his almost interminable moaning in the early part of his career turned a lot of tennis fans against him.
Nobody cared about how tired he was at the end of another trophy-less grand slam, or whether he was nursing another injury.
It wasn’t until he broke down in tears after losing yet another Wimbledon that the general public connected with him as a human being – with emotions and feelings, and all that sort of gubbins.
I am sure fans in the stands in Melbourne this week will have been in awe of the endurance and stamina shown by Murray, Nadal et al, running around for four hours in conditions weather forecasters would warn against sitting in for longer than 30 seconds.
But that penny does not always drop when you are watching from the comfort of your own sofa in a cosy, thermostat controlled living room.
So I guess, as an armchair fan, it is always worth remembering your sporting heroes are not robots.
I intend to take that mindset into this year’s World Cup, when England take on Italy in their opening match in an Amazonian jungle at a time more convenient for television than sporting endeavour.
My promise to the England players, when they look to be flagging in the pre-match warm-up, is that I will not translate their inability to breathe in the 100 per cent humidity as a lack of effort.
That’s the plan, at least, although I fear the inevitable will happen and I will revert to type – throwing food and crockery at the TV screen after their Latin opponents score a last-minute winner in an energy-sapping finale.
Sportsmen eh, they don’t know they’re born.