Australian Open 2014: Andy Murray will have to beat the heat and Japan's Go Soeda to reach the second round

At least the match has been scheduled as the last of four on HiSense Arena, to
be played after 5pm (6am GMT). By that time of day, it should no longer be
possible to fry an egg on the surface of the court, although you could
probably warm a Cup-a-Soup quite effectively.

“You get one of the 40-degree days here and you really feel it,” Murray said
at the weekend. “The court surface gets roasting, your feet get really hot,
and your legs start to get tired early. Then with the sun in your face, it’s
so strong here that your skin’s burning.”

Since the draw came out, Soeda has been widely painted as a patsy – an ideal
first opponent for Murray as he feels his way back from a four-month

Yet this is more than a tad disrespectful: Soeda’s ranking of 112 conceals the
fact that he cracked the top 50 last year before picking up an injury. Now
restored to full fitness, he is the sort of energetic terrier – or perhaps
we should call him a Spitz – who will scamper all over the court and keep
Murray short of breath.

“Andy is just coming back,” Nishikori pointed out on Sunday, in reference to
the spinal surgery that has kept Murray off the match court – barring a
couple of outings in Doha – since early September. “He’s a great player, of
course, but I don’t think he’s going to play 100 per cent or 150 per cent
first round. Go has to be aggressive. Yeah, hopefully he wins.”

If Soeda lacks one thing, according to his Italian coach Davide Sanguinetti,
it is a touch of swagger on the court. As an outsider, a spiky
serve-volleyer who once reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals, Sanguinetti is
continually frustrated by the Japanese culture of deference. He fears that a
society with such rigid hierarchies is not set up to generate giantkillers.

“Davide says that I need to be more Italian, like cheat or something!” Soeda
joked. “But I am too polite. He always says that I need to make myself
bigger on court. I am getting better at doing it. Sometimes now I do lose my
temper, like an Italian. I think Andy is a bit like me in temperament.”

We can hardly expect Murray to be at his most clinical on Monday night. He has
played only one genuinely competitive singles match since Great Britain’s
last Davis Cup tie in September. And he lost that one, despite having led
Florian Mayer by a set and 3-0 in Doha on New Year’s Day.

On Tuesday, however, there will be every motivation to conserve energy. Murray
will not want to be kept out on court for hours, given the intensity of the
heatwave that is forecast to hover over Melbourne all week.

“My guy is pretty good in the heat,” Sanguinetti said on Sunday, “but I think
Andy will make him run a lot. It’s a good thing his name is Go.”

The Australian
does have an “extreme heat policy” that applies when conditions
become dangerous. When the WBGT – or wet bulb globe temperature – reaches a
certain level, tournament director Craig Tiley can opt to close the roofs on
the two biggest arenas, while play is suspended everywhere else.

However, the devil is in the detail – specifically in the Mastermind-style
clause stating that once your match has started, it must be completed. Even
those with the apparent good fortune to be scheduled on HiSense or Rod Laver
Arena are not allowed to stop playing for a few minutes and allow the roof
to be closed.

The last time we saw conditions of such severity at the Australian Open was in
2009, when a young Heather Watson experienced spots in her vision during a
2½-hour junior match. But the classic instance dates from two years earlier,
when the on-court temperatures climbed over 50C, and Maria Sharapova became
caught up in a punishing three-hour match with Camille Pin.

did eventually pull through, 9-7 in the third, but she
admitted later that she had become “delusional”, like a desert wanderer
dreaming of a mirage. “It’s inhumanly possible [sic] to play three hours in
that kind of heat,” she said. “I don’t think our bodies were made to do
that. Sometimes when it’s that hot your mind doesn’t work properly.”

Weather patterns do not always live up to the forecast, of course, but
meteorologists are predicted thermometer readings in excess of 40C every day
from Tuesday to Friday. If they are right, we could find ourselves playing a
new kind of grand slam, where the lesser matches take place under
floodlights in the evening, and the major ones under a roof.

So who is Go Soeda?

Age: 29
Born: Kanagawa, Japan
Height: 5ft 10in
Weight: 11st 6lb
Plays: Right-handed
Coach: Davide Sanguinetti, the Italian who made the quarter-finals at
Wimbledon in 1998
World ranking: 112
Highest ranking: 47, July 23 2012
Win-loss record: 44-66
Grand Slam win-loss record: 3-12
Career earnings: £685,000
High points reached: The second round of both the Australian Open and
Wimbledon last year, beating Luke Saville and Andreas Haid er-Maurer

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Australian Open 2014: Andy Murray will have to beat the heat and Japan's Go Soeda to reach the second round
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