NEW YORK – The male players at the US Open can – and do, repeatedly – change their sweaty, drippy shirts on court during changeovers.
But the shorts … well, that’s a more challenging dilemma.
The USTA has added a “heat rule” for the men during the hottest days of this US Open, the first time it has ever done so. So that has given the players an opportunity to go back to the locker room (or somewhere cool) for part of a 10-minute period to grab some cooler air and change their clothes. They could even have a shower. And some have jumped into the ice bath.
But the general rule about a player only being allowed to leave the court for bathroom breaks twice, throughout a long five-set match, looks to remain on the books.
And so young Spanish player Jaume Munar got into a bit of a tiff with the officials when he wanted to change his shorts, during his first-round match against lucky loser Ruben Bemelmans last week.
We’ve seen him get a little tetchy on court (notably during the final round of Wimbledon qualifying this year, when both he and Andrea Collarini both got a little personal with the female umpire about her decisions).
But it seemed to be more a failure to communicate than anything else.
And off Munar went to the conveniently located portable toilet right behind the next court. There are several located along the south fence on the site, for use by players toiling on the field courts.
It’s called a “Callahead” – a premium portable toilet, although the USTA didn’t choose the “spaceship” or the “London phone booth” model.
The problem is, it’s a little jammed when you get a tennis player – and his bag – in there. It’s pretty right quarters when you’re trying to wriggle out of a soaking-wet pair of shots.
We’re trying to picture Ivo Karlovic in there. And not successfully.
As well, there are no visible vents or windows. So at some point, Munar had to have called out to the official to open the door a crack and keep it open, so he could breathe.
It’s not exactly ideal. But at least it gets the job done in a quick amount of time.
Because we’re big on the investigative journalism here at Tennis.Life – and boldly go where no website has gone before – we stopped by later and found an unlocked one to check out the inside.
Yup, tight. Lovely and posh for your basic business. But for extra heat-wave business, not so much.
It’s a crazy thing, when you think about it. You might make seven figures this year. But you have to ask permission to go the bathroom. And you have to ask permission to leave the court and change a drippy, soaking kit.
As well, you have to have someone watching while you do it. And you can only do it twice – when you might be out there sweating for five hours.
And, you probably have to do it in a porta-potty.
Munar went on to win the match against Bemelmans, 6-1 in the fifth set. But he had a lot of issues. And at one point the doctor came on and checked his blood pressure.
During Munar’s next match, it was opponent Diego Schwartzman who went for the Callahead.
Same one, too. It was probably more Schwartzman-size.
The Argentine came back out and won the match in four sets.
NEW YORK – There were three or four days during the first week of the US Open that were unbearably hot and humid, right into the night.
There were retirements, cramping, see-through shorts, dripping ball caps and a new heat rule for the men after the third set.
After a brief respite, the heat wave has returned. And on Monday, during the fourth-round singles matches, it might have been even more humid.
Novak Djokovic managed to finish off Portugal’s Joao Sousa in straight sets. But he didn’t look very good. And he felt even worse.
“Yeah, heat was the – what do you call it – (adversary) today. It is what it is. I’ve experienced that in the first round. It’s tough, you know. It’s not easy to play in these kind of conditions,” Djokovic said. “At the same time, you can’t do anything but try to be tough and survive, you know, find a way to win.”
Once the shadow passed over Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadiums and left the courts in shade, things were marginally better. Same on the Grandstand, where Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko looked for all the world as though she might pull the rip cord after losing the first set to Marketa Vondrousova.
But she didn’t. She hung in there until the court was in shade. And even if the air was just as unbreathable, at least the sun wasn’t beating down on her head. She prevailed, 67 (7) 75 2 in 2 1/2 hours that probably felt like four.
“I’m feeling much better. I’ve been into the ice bath. I think it was some type of heat illness or something like that. And I have to say that I’ve never felt so bad on court. … I usually handle any kind of weather without any problem. But today was one of the toughest matches in my life,” Tsurenko said afterwards.
“The worst for me is that I cannot control my body, so I start to do some easy mistakes. At some point I just thought that it’s over for me for today,” she said. “But then at the beginning of the second set, I could feel like a breeze, like a little wind, and it was cooler. Then I saw the shade, and I thought, ‘Okay, I will try’. I give myself some hope.”
Not as hot, but worse?
Tsurenko said it felt much hotter last Tuesday, for her first-round match. But she didn’t feel nearly as badly – dizzy, eyes unfocused, having trouble breathing – as she did Monday. That’s Slam pressure. And it’s also a cumulative thing after Tsuenko played singles on another steamy day, Thursday, and upset No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki.
Her opponent, Vondrousova, didn’t buy it, although she appeared on court as though she could fully relate to the struggle, and was having one of her own.
Vondrousova cut off Q about Tsurenko visibly struggling in #USOpen heat.
"I don't think she was struggling so much. She was just acting. She played normally; it was just acting."
She later added: "It's weird. She's like 30. Why can you do that? It's just weird. I don't get it."
For four days last week, the players were dropping like flies. Among the retirements in the early rounds were Ricardas Berankis, Leonardo Mayer, Sam Querrey, Marius Copil, Stefano Travaglia, Mikhail Youzhny and more. Not all were because of the heat. But most were.
Players like Novak Djokovic and Fernando Verdasco hit the … ice bath during the new 10-minute heat break. Dripping shirts littered the courts. And it’s hard for a mere mortal to imagine what it feels like when you go and sit down in your chair every two games, and feel like you’re sitting in a puddle because you can only leave the court twice in a five-set match and your shorts, soaking wet, probably feel twice as heavy.
Canadian Vasek Pospisil – in the 95th percentile of perspiring players – even changed his shorts on court, under a towel.
Here are some shots from last week’s heat wave – those who survived, and those who are done.
It was pouring in Melbourne on the day of the much-anticipated annual rite.
But Australian Open meteorologist Bob Leighton prognosticated that the weather during the 2018 Australian Open would be much better.
Of course, he says that every year. As he should.
Here’s Bob’s forecast:
“Early predictions show that the weather will be mostly sunny and fine during Australian Open 2018. Daily maximum temperatures for January are predicted to be around mid-20s, and there could be four or five days in the 30s, with the possibility of one to three days in the high 30s,” he said.
“There could be two or three days with some rainfall and a thunderstorm may be possible, but overall there will be more sunny days than wet ones.”
Rain isn’t really a problem at the Australian Open – at least not for the players ranked high enough to merit a spot on the schedule on one of the three arenas with retractable roofs: Rod Laver, Hisense and Margaret Court.
The same is true if the heat were to get intense. That hasn’t happen a whole lot in recent years, despite our common perception of the Australian summer weather.
They will close the roofs if the temperature meets certain parameters. But if they do that, they also stop play on all the outside courts, because that means it’s pretty unbearable.
It happened one day during the 2014 edition – new Canadian Davis Cup captain Frank Dancevic’s star-turning moment.
When it gets bad – it gets really bad.
Last year, the average high during the tournament was 26°C (79°F) and there was an average of nine hours of sunshine a day.
The 2009 edition was the warmest on record. An absolute scorcher. The average daily high was nearly 95°F.
In the end, Wimbledon cancelled the match. Officially, at 8:49 p.m.
And not only did that create more questions than it answered, it also will have a ripple effect on the women’s quarter-finals on Tuesday.
The reasoning was, well, considerate. But debatable.
“The safety and security of all visitors to The Championships is of paramount importance. The preference was to play the Djokovic v Mannarino match as scheduled on No.1 Court.
When that was no longer an option, it was determined the match could not be moved to Centre Court due to the number of spectators remaining in the Grounds.
As late as 8.30pm, 30,000 people still remained in the Grounds, and therefore moving the match would have created a significant safety issue.
Both players were explained the rationale of postponing the match until tomorrow, which is now scheduled for a 12noon start on Centre Court.”
No stampedes at the AELTC
It’s worth noting that Wimbledon is a place that makes a friendly announcement over the public-address system shortly before the gates open at 10:30 a.m. There are thousands of people waiting outside to sprint for the court they plan to set up on for the day, and the announcer asks them not to run.
And they pretty much don’t ever run.
It’s a place where thousands of people camp out every night just to get inside the gates the next day, and it’s all quite peaceful. As well, it’s a place where fans line up forever to get into one show court or another, and we’ve never seen a contretemps.
It’s also worth noting that as popular as Novak Djokovic is, he’s not Andy Murray or Roger Federer in this particular context.
Does it seem as though Wimbledon – generally a well-oiled machine of the highest caliber – is having a few extra bumps this year?
It begs a legitimate question: had it been Murray or Federer on No. 1 Court waiting to play, would they have made the same decision?
The world No. 1 Brit, and Federer – the player many would have pulled heaven from earth to wrangle a ticket to No. 1 Court to see play Monday.
They probably won’t answer that question. Wimbledon makes its decisions – and they’re well thought out and reasoned per all of the parameters they have to deal with, even if people disagree with the outcome. And that’s that.
Wimbledon’s basic philosophy about the roof is that even though it is in place, Wimbledon is an outdoor tournament and, as much as possible, they try to keep it that way.
But if it suits them, they can be “flexible.”
Bouchard hits Centre Court
Last year, Genie Bouchard and Magdalena Rybarikova began their first-round match on Court 12 on the Tuesday, were delayed a full day but when persistent rain blew the schedule up, the tournament made the unusual decision of relocating the match to Centre Court to get it finished Wednesday night.
There were plenty of other deserving candidates. Why this match? It ended up being the only one to get finished while so many players waited out two solid days of rain.
The reason became clear when Brit Johanna Konta got the one women’s slot on Centre Court for her second-round match the next day. She was playing the winner of the Bouchard-Rybarikova match and if that match hadn’t been completed when it was, there would have been no match.
And the more the schedule was pushed back, the harder it would have been to justify putting Konta (then only the No. 16 seed) on Centre when so many more accomplished players were waiting to play.
Frenchmen moved mid-match
In 2015, another unusual situation arose as Frenchmen Gilles Simon and Gaël Monfils were playing their third-round match on No. 1 Court on the first Saturday night, when darkness fell.
If they didn’t finish, they would have had to wait until Monday. And if they waited until Monday, the entire Manic Monday concept would have gone all wrong as the winner of that one could not play a second best-of-five singles match that same day.
So … they relocated the match to Centre Court.
Except, they didn’t announce it. The fans on No. 1 Court, who were only told play was being suspended because of bad light, didn’t know it was being moved. The majority of them went home, and were cheated out of a dénouement and even a chance to get onto Centre Court, if they never had before.
The difference between that one and Monday’s confusion was that the club stated there were exponentially more people still on the grounds than there were for that Simon-Monfils match.
Tuesday forecast: grim
One parameter Wimbledon probably needed to factor in with this decision is that the forecast for Tuesday is … awful. The tournament got a little lucky Monday, with the possibility of showers and maybe even a thundershower forecast. They never materialized.
Light rain through the morning and early afternoon, then it gets heavier later in the afternoon and into the evening.
Lunchtime with Mannarino
The Djokovic-Mannarino match was rescheduled to be first up on Centre Court Tuesday. And the usual start time of 1 p.m. was moved up to noon. The winner will have to play against on Wednesday, with the men’s quarter-finals scheduled to go that day.
What that means, practically, is that Venus Williams and Jelena Ostapenko, who had a firm 1 p.m. start time for their women’s quarter-final, must now sit and wait.
The men’s best-of-five set match could take two hours. It could take three. It could – as Nadal and Muller did Monday – take four hours and 47 minutes. Or someone could pull a hamstring in the second game of the match, and it could take 10 minutes.
Then comes the other quarter-final from the bottom half of the draw: No. 2 seed Simona Halep vs. No. 6 seed, Brit Johanna Konta.
Men’s postponement affects the women
Those three matches will be played. But what about the top half?
Svetlana Kuznetsova and Garbiñe Muguruza are set to open play on No. 1 Court at 1 p.m., followed by Coco Vandeweghe and Rybarikova.
But … what if the weather forecast is right?
If there were no men’s match on Centre Court, it would be no problem. Within the window of play that must necessarily conclude by an 11 p.m. neighbourhood curfew, they could get all four women’s matches in.
With the Djokovic-Mannarino match a wild card in that mix, there’s no chance that could happen. So what do they do? Play one, leaving the winner of the other to be the only player to have to play on back-to-back days? Play none, postponing both until Wednesday to at least give put that semi-final on even terms?
Likely the latter. Which means that five-time champion Venus and British hope Konta have a nice advantage.
ROLAND-GARROS – There was no men’s tennis at all at the French Open Tuesday after a three hour, 10-minute rain delay, on a day that already had a 2 p.m. start, meant postponement of both scheduled men’s quarter-finals.
The highly-anticipated showdown between Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem, as well as Rafael Nadal squaring off against countryman Pablo Carreño Busta, will happen Wednesday.
And that means that all four men’s quarter-finals will be played Wednesday.
On the plus side, the tournament will issue full refunds to those who had tickets Tuesday. Per their policies (see below), they don’t have to. So it’s a nice move.
Those two postponed matches will begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday – Nadal on Philippe-Chatrier, Djokovic on Suzanne Lenglen, as originally scheduled Tuesday.
The regularly scheduled matches – Kei Nishikori against Andy Murray (on Chatrier) and Stan Wawrinka vs. Marin Cilic (on Suzanne Lenglen) – will follow much later.
Postponement hurts the women
The remaining two women’s quarterfinals, Simona Halep vs. Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova vs. Caroline Garcia, also will be played Wednesday.
Unfortunately for the women, they will be sandwiched between the men’s matches. Halep-Svitolina will be on Lenglen, and Garcia-Pliskova on Chatrier. That means a fairly uncertain start time.
The women’s semifinals will be played Thursday. And one of them is already known, after the women managed to complete play Tuesday after the rain delay. Unseeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia will play No. 30 seed Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland.
Not quite what the forecasters had drawn up, right?
The men’s semi-finals, in separately ticketed sessions, will go Friday. The forecast looks quite good, at least until Sunday afternoon.
The rain delay – rare this year compared to the flood that was the 2016 French Open – naturally renewed calls for a retractable roof.
But in the end, with one roofed stadium, the competitive fairness aspect would go out the window. If Nadal and Carreño Busta got through their match on the biggest court but Djokovic and Thiem (expected to be a marathon) couldn’t play – or finish – until the next day, that would be pretty unfair to the winner of the latter match.
Especially if the winner of that match had to face a more rested Nadal.
At least, the way this has shaken out, all four men’s quarters will be played Wednesday. And all participants will have roughly the same amount of recovery time before Friday’s semifinals.
French Open refund policy
Until this year, the French Open’s official rain policy was that if less than 60 minutes of tennis was played, the entire cost of the ticket would be refunded (minus handling fees). If there was between an hour and an hour, 59 minutes of tennis, 50 per cent of the ticket was refunded. If there is two hours or more of tennis, nothing is refunded.
Mladenovic-Bacsinszky officially took an hour and 49 minutes. Ostapenko-Wozniacki took an hour and 53 minutes.
A new policy this year has one threshold – two hours of play. There was less than that on the two main courts, so a full refund. There was more than two hours on the field courts, so those with other tickets will not get a refund.