Updated: 01/16/2014 09:41 | By Agence France-Presse

Temperatures set for new highs at Australian Open

Players braced for the Australian Open's hottest day yet Thursday with temperatures forecast to hit a blistering 44 Celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit) at the year's opening Grand Slam.

Temperatures set for new highs at Australian Open

Ivan Dodig pictured during his Australian Open match against Damir Dzumhur in Melbourne on January 15, 2014

With 32 singles matches in prospect, plus a full schedule of doubles, the tournament's organisers will be in sharp focus as they weigh whether to halt play to mitigate health risks.

Temperatures had already reached 38 Celsius as play started at 11:00 am, with players shrouding themselves in ice packs and gulping drinks at the changeovers.

The hottest temperature so far at this year's tournament was 42.2 on Tuesday. Several players have condemned the conditions after players fainted and vomited and fell victim to cramp.

Canada's Frank Dancevic, who hallucinated that he was seeing Snoopy and blacked out during his loss to Benoit Paire, called conditions "inhumane" and "hazardous".

Croatia's Ivan Dodig said he feared he might die after pulling out of his match with Damir Dzumhur with severe cramp. And Chinese player Peng Shuai cramped and vomited in the severe heat.

Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has said organisers were risking a serious incident by letting play continue, warning of the chance of a player suffering a heart attack.

Organisers have allowed players to take a longer break between sets but they have so far baulked at halting matches and closing the roofs on the two courts that have them, Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena.

Tournament referee Wayne McKewen has said that while conditions were "hot and uncomfortable" they were not dangerous because humidity remains low.

The Australian Open, played at the height of the Melbourne summer, is notorious for its hairdryer heat.

In 2009, the hottest edition on record with an average daily temperature of 34.7 Celsius, reigning champion Novak Djokovic pulled out of his quarter-final with Andy Roddick, citing heat exhaustion.

A total fire ban is in effect across the state of Victoria, where severe bushfires in 2009 devoured entire towns, killing 173 people and injuring hundreds more.

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