Closed roof for Australian Open final draws criticism

MELBOURNE, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The Australian Open men's singles final between champion Roger Federer and sixth seed Marin Cilic got underway on Sunday with the roof closed at Rod Laver Arena on a scorching day, triggering a hailstorm of criticism from former players.

The roofs of the main showcourts at Melbourne Park are usually kept open unless the tournament's extreme heat policy is invoked, when the temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) and a key humidity threshold has been surpassed.

The temperature was 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 F) when Cilic and Federer took the court.

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash said the decision to close the roof would play straight into defending champion Federer's hands.

"It's an outdoor tournament -- it's like Wimbledon. Why is the roof closed?" the Australian said during commentary for BBC radio.

"The way Roger plays, he swings so hard at the ball and takes it so early, any wind or variation of the ball moving will take it away from him. It's why he's one of the best players ever indoors."

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Fans watch the men's singles second round match between Austria's Dominic Thiem and Denis Kudla of the US on day four of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 18, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Paul Crock / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 17: Fans cool down in front of a misting fan on day three of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 17, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 17: Misting fans keep fans cool in the hot summer sunshine on day three of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 17, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
Fans wait for the start of the men's singles first round match between Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych and Australia's Alex De Minaur on day two of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 16, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / WILLIAM WEST / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16: Fans cool down in front of a misting fan on day two of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 18: Spectators watch the second round match between Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Gael Monfils of France on day four of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 18: Spectators watch the second round match between Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Gael Monfils of France in hot weather on day four of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 18: Spectators congregate in the shade in Garden Square to avoid the hot weather on day four of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 18: A lone shirtless spectator in Garden Square enjoys the hot weather on day four of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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Other former players expressed disdain for the decision.

"I can’t believe they’ve closed the roof," British doubles player Jamie Murray, the brother of three-times grand slam champion Andy Murray, tweeted.

"Absolutely ridiculous that the roof is closed for the Australian Open. GS are outdoor events. Yes it’s hot but the court is under shade and an evening match," tweeted British former U.S. Open finalist Greg Rusedski.

During the first week of the grand slam, players battled through two days of 40 degrees Celsius heat fully exposed to the conditions, as organizers declined to invoke the heat policy. (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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