Everyone, well most everyone, knows that New York City in August and early September is not the place to be, yet that is exactly where all the top tennis players find themselves for the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadow, in the borough of Queens.
“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” is a popular refrain in that part of the country, but New York currently could be saying, “Not only is it the heat, it is also the humidity.”
Novak Djokovic knows the reality first hand. He was taken to four sets by Marton Fucsovics on Tuesday and played the match under a scorching sun with temperatures around 35 C and humidity hovering in the 50 percent range. Those conditions would be challenging to someone simply loitering about, but few tennis players enjoy that luxury.
With the temperature and humidity combined, the players would have been exposed to conditions that made it feel closer to 41 C. Combine that with the sun and even superbly conditioned athletes can find the threat of heat exhaustion all too real.
“Survival mode,” Djokovic called it when speaking to reporters.
The conditions were so extreme that no fewer than six players called time on matches, claiming heat-related cramps or heat exhaustion as their reasons for abandoning chances at moving ahead in the final Grand Slam tennis tournament of the season.
Credit to officials for offering solutions.
For the first time in the history of the U.S. Open, the male players were offered a 10-minute break between the third and fourth sets in any matches that went that far.
That matches the allowance that has been in place for the women, except that the women get the 10 minutes between the second and third sets.
The new 25-second shot clock is under scrutiny, with some suggesting that it should be turned off to permit players more time to recover between points.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would strongly advocate for that one, as at times, it almost seems like it requires a calendar, not a clock, to measure the interval between points when either of those two is on the court.