London, July 1: A ball boy collapsed and fans took cover as Wimbledon sweltered today on the hottest day ever recorded at the championships.
The suncream was slapped on and fans formed long queues at the water fountains as they tried to beat the heat in sweaty southwest London.
Britain's Met Office national weather service said a temperature of 35.7 degrees Celsius (96.3 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew - its nearest station to the All England Club.
That topped the previous record of 34.6C (94.3F) set nearly four decades ago in 1976. The heat got the better of one Wimbledon ball boy, who was stretchered off Court 17 after passing out.
He was sent to hospital for a precautionary check-up and after treatment was "feeling much better", the All England Club said.
"We wish him a speedy recovery." Spectators sheltered under umbrellas while others folded up newspapers into hats to keep the sun off. Some draped towels on their heads or used hand fans, while others formed lengthy queues to buy ice creams and refill their water bottles.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki handed out iced coffee to sun-baked spectators queueing to get in the grounds.
No sweat for royals
The Centre Court sliding roof was closed before play to protect the grass surface from the heat, but was reopened before defending champion Novak Djokovic got play under way. Wimbledon officials only close the folding roof during play for rain or bad light.
However, the roof was edged out just enough to keep the royal box in the shade, where All England Club president Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, was joined by guests and dignitaries.
Out on Court 18, France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert sat with an ice-filled towel around his shoulders during a break in his match with Bernard Tomic, who was feeling hot and bothered.
"I was fatigued and starting to get dizzy out there with the heat hitting me," said the Australian, who needed a medical time-out to get through the match. "I just haven't been sleeping well here. It's been too hot."
However, some players said they were used to such weather on the world tour and at their training bases. "It's much warmer in my hometown," said Florida-based former champion Maria Sharapova. "It's way worse in Florida," America's John Isner confirmed. Meanwhile sun-loving Spaniard Rafael Nadal worked up a good sweat in a practice session before signing autographs for fans.
'It's quite hot'
Wimbledon's quirky requirement for players to be dressed "almost entirely in white" -- preventing the appearance of unsightly sweat stains -- really comes into its own on such days. "It's quite hot," said an All England Club spokesman.
"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 told AFP.
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.