London: Wimbledon tennis chiefs were geared up for one of the hottest days of play ever recorded at the prestigious tournament as the mercury rose in London on Wednesday.
As play got under way at the All England Club, all eyes were on the thermometers as fans queueing outside the gates slapped on the suncream and refilled their water bottles.
The highest temperature ever reached during The Championships stands at 34.6 degrees Celsius (94.28 degrees Fahrenheit), a record set in 1976.
"Highest official observation for Wimbledon so far is 34.3C," said BBC weatherman Simon King. "So close to beating the record."
The Centre Court roof was closed before play to protect the playing surface from the heat, but it was reopened in advance of the first match of the day, when defending champion Novak Djokovic was facing Jarkko Niemenen in the second round.
Wimbledon officials only close the roof during play for rain or bad light.
Out on Court 18, France`s Pierre-Hugues Herbert sat with an ice-filled towel around his shoulders as he swigged water during a break in his match with Australia`s Bernard Tomic.
Spectators sheltered under umbrellas while others folded up newspapers into hats to keep the sun l off.
The official Wimbledon weather forecast predicted a hot and humid day, "mostly dry with sunny spells and broken clouds", with a 20 percent chance of a shower -- though if any such downpours occur, they should move through quickly.Security guards were smearing on the sunscreen in preparation for a sizzling day.
"It`s quite hot," an All England Club spokesman told AFP.
"We`re advising people to drink lots of water, wear a hat and use plenty of suncream."
Wimbledon chiefs cut the capacity at the club by 1,000 to 38,000.
"This is to make more space within the grounds, to make it more comfortable for the visitors. There will be more room, more space in the shade and easier access to the water fountains," the spokesman said.
The first aid charity St John Ambulance said it had treated 123 people at Wimbledon on Tuesday and taken two to hospital, with a majority suffering from heat-related conditions.
A heat rule, which allows for a 10-minute break between the second and final sets of women`s matches, can be used when temperatures rise above 30.1C (86.2F).
However, no such rule exists on the men`s tour, even though they have to slug it out over the best of five sets at Grand Slam events like Wimbledon.
Judy Murray, Britain`s Fed Cup coach and the mother of 2013 Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, said the rule should not just apply to the women.
"I think the men should adopt it as well, especially because they have to play five sets," she said.
"A slam is such a tough thing to play in; I know you get a day in between matches but if you`re going to win a slam you need to play seven matches in 13 days.
"For the men working across the best of five sets it`s incredibly physically and mentally draining, so I think the men should take advantage of it as well."
The women`s tour heat rule has been implemented twice at Wimbledon, in 2006 and 2009.