Melbourne:Australian Open officials have amended the tournament's heat policy so that matches in progress when extreme conditions are declared won't have to be immediately finished.
Players in the January 14-27 tournament at Melbourne Park will no longer have to complete matches that are already under way once the extreme heat rule is invoked, instead only having to complete the current set.
Previously, players who had just started a match had to complete it, even if it meant sweltering through a full three or five sets in extreme conditions.
In another change announced on Saturday, the decision to suspend play will be solely at the discretion of the tournament referee.
Previously, Open organizers used a specific cutoff point, based on calculations of a set of weather readings that included court temperature and humidity.
Tournament director Craig Tiley said several top players from Australia and overseas had been consulted about the changes and the feedback was positive.
"Previously if we invoked the heat policy the matches continued until the conclusion of a match," Tiley said. "Some players were out here in very extreme conditions for another three to four hours.
"Now we're saying at the end of a set the matches will come in, so we're not going to create that situation where players have to battle it out with a lack of performance because of the heat for a long time."
As in the past, play will be able to continue on the two courts with retractable roofs, Rod Laver Arena and Vodafone Arena.
Tiley said the newly installed Plexicushion courts, which replaced the old Rebound Ace surface, would also help player comfort.
He said the new courts had a thinner layer of rubberized cushioning, which meant they would retain less heat.
He said officials also planned to add an onsite weather station and meteorologist so that organizers could receive forecasts instantly.
"We can take all those factors and put them together ... the most important is the actual forecast, that's something that's going to really be able to help us," said Tiley.