'I played two sets out of breath for nothing, just to please officials'

Gael Monfils has called for officials to take action in extreme heat, after playing out a treacherous match on Rod Laver Arena.

With the mercury tipped by the bureau to reach 42 in Melbourne on Friday, it's expected that the Australian Open's heat policy will be enacted for the first time this year.

But there was no such luck for Djokovic and Monfils on Thursday, with the pair forced to play under normal rules in anything but normal conditions.

Melbourne hit its top of 39 degrees halfway through the second-round match, with the court temperature edging towards an unthinkable 70 degrees.

Both men were struggling, but Monfils was clearly more affected that Djokovic.

"For sure we took risks," Monfils exclaimed after the match. "Honestly I played two sets out of breath for nothing, just to please the officials. At the end it's a bit risky."

The 193cm Frenchman was gasping for air between points and approached the chair umpire midway through the second set to warn the official that he was on the verge of collapsing.

"Monfils is physically in a daze right now," four-time grand slam winner Jim Courier said while commentating on the Seven Network. "He is hurting badly. A 24-shot rally may have wounded him ... he has got nothing."

While Monfils believed the rules were fair for both players, he said officials should be able to extend the time between points to help players recover.

"At one stage I said to the chair umpire the 25-second rule (time between points), there's no need."

Conditions on Friday are expected to be even worse, with temperatures tipped to go into the 40s. No.3 seed Grigor Dmitrov is due to play in the middle of the afternoon on Rod Laver Arena, with sixth seed Croatian Marin Cilic to do the same on Hisense Arena.

"Good luck for those guys," Monfils said. "I train this winter in Miami and it was pretty hot and I thought I was very good. But I'm telling you I was dying on the court for 40 minutes, so good luck to them.

"Sometimes we put our bodies at risk so be smart and if you have to give up then it's not a shame."

Even the usually calm, cool and collected Djokovic was struggling in the conditions early. He double-faulted the first two points of the match and lost three of his opening four service games.

He had 10 unforced errors in the first three games against Monfils and the first winner didn't come until deep into the fifth game.

Djokovic lost the first set 6-4, something he hadn't done with Monfils since 2013.

Monfils sat down at the end of the first set with the incredible statistic that he was 20 wins and zero losses at the Australian Open after winning the opening set. But not many of those 20 matches would've been in tougher conditions.

It was the sixth game of the second set when Monfils nearly broke down after a gruelling 24-shot rally. For the remainder of the set, the Frenchman could barely move. He had no knee-bend when serving and could barely do more than return serve.

After losing the second set 6-3, Monfils sought medical assistance for heat exhaustion, claiming he was feeling dizzy and sick in his stomach. Remarkably, he returned to the court and despite losing the third set 6-1, could have easily pushed the match to a fifth set.

With the score tied at 2-2 in the fourth, Monfils forced Djokovic to save two break points in an epic game that lasted 10 minutes.

The Frenchman then produced arguably the shot of the tournament in the very next game.

Djokovic looked to have hit a clean winner with a cross-court backhand while approaching a short ball, only for Monfils to reach it, and somehow flick it back one-handed across Djokovic's shoes for his own winner.

The pressure was getting to Djokovic, too. Not only was his opponent producing breathtaking shots while seemingly on the verge of retirement, but the crowd was becoming increasingly enthralled in Monfils' ability to stay alive.

Despite looking like it several times, Monfils refused to give up for what would have been retirement No.17 at tour level. He forced Djokovic to win it.

He saved three match points with a mixture of resilient defence and incredible shot making, only for the six-time Australian Open champion to win it with a volley.

After 2 hours and 45 minutes, 105 combined unforced errors and an incredible 26 double-faults, the real score will read 15-0.

Thursday's match marks the 15th time that Djokovic has defeated Monfils at tour level.

The Serbian will now play Spaniard Albert Ramod-Vinolas, who had a very different day with a straight sets victory against American wildcard Tim Smyczek.

This story 'I played two sets out of breath for nothing, just to please officials' first appeared on The Age.