Wimbledon 2015: Heat Break Rule for Women Sparks Sexism Row

Wimbledon heat rule
The heat break rule does not apply to male players like Rafael Nadal, who is pictured shaking sweat off his head after winning his match against Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, June 30, 2015. Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Female tennis players at Wimbledon are being allowed to take a 10-minute heat break while men must play on, a quirk in the rules tthat has sparked a heated debate amongst some.

The Wimbledon Championships are incorporating the rule which means that, if temperatures exceed 30.1 degrees Celsius, or 86 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat stress index will be taken and female players can request a short break between the second and third sets of matches.

However, there is no comparable rule in the men's game, which is run by a separate governing body to the women's sport.

The rule is likely to be invoked this week with temperatures set to reach the mid-90s tomorrow. The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs the tournament, warned spectators and players today to take preventative measures from the heat. The highest temperature previously recorded at Wimbledon was 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

British men's No 1 Andy Murray previously complained about the heat rule at the 2014 Australian Open, when sweltering temperatures of 42C caused one player to vomit and a ball boy to collapse. At the time, Murray said: "I don't know why there are different rules. If there's a medical reason for it, then I'm fine with it. If there isn't, I'm not."

In a statement, Wimbledon referee Andrew Jarret said that only one player need request the break for the rule to be implemented and that the rule applies only to ladies' and girls' singles matches.

He said that the heat stress index is a measure which monitors air temperature, humidity and surface temperature.

The rule was introduced by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) in 1992, and applies to all WTA tournaments. It has been invoked twice before at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2009.

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), which governs the men's game, does not have a similar rule. According to the Daily Mail, the All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, is under no obligation to create a rule, with a spokesman saying that the decision must be taken by the relevant governing bodies.

Wimbledon only introduced equal prize money for male and female competitors in 2007, 130 years after the first tournament was played in 1877. This year's male and female singles champions will take home £26.7 million ($41.9 million) each in prize money.

The previous disparity in prize money had been justified by the fact that men's matches are generally longer, being the best of five sets, whereas the women's are decided in three sets.