The Tokyo Olympics tennis tournament takes place in sweltering heat and humidity. Novak Djokovic and other players are calling for changes to the organization.
“We have never played in such extreme conditions”: several players of the Olympic tennis tournament raised the tone after the first day of competition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where stifling heat prevails on the courts and demand changes in the organization.
“The conditions are really tough. Today (Saturday) was really the hottest day (since our arrival). And with the added humidity, it’s really brutal. Especially since the hard courts absorb all that, and that the heat remains locked up “, declared Novak Djokovic, after his victory against the Bolivian Hugo Dellien (139th).
The world No.1, big favorite for the Olympic title, played his first match on Saturday in the middle of the afternoon, as temperatures exceeded 32 degrees in the shade on the courts of Ariake Tennis Park . Like his runner-up in the world rankings, the Russian under the neutral banner, Daniil Medvedev, who also suffered from the sweltering.
We “have never played in such extreme conditions”, also denounced the Spaniard Paula Badosa. “In Australia or at the US Open it’s also very hot, but here what ‘kills’ you the most is the humidity which makes you feel exhausted,” added the 23-year-old.
With this damp heat, “we recover less quickly, the legs move less quickly. An exchange and our heart goes up very high right away. As soon as there is a rally of five, six strikes, we have the impression of having played thirty minutes, the head spinning … “, explained the French Gilles Simon after his defeat against Belarusian Egor Gerasimov.
But these conditions did not put off everyone: “It’s great to play in these conditions. I grew up playing in the heat”, rejoiced the Greek Maria Sakkari, while understanding that such conditions may disturb other players.
Djokovic, very involved in the creation of a tennis players’ union (PTPA), and Medvedev have called for delaying the start of matches in order to have more lenient temperatures.
“What can be done is to delay the start of games until the afternoon and play until midnight”, instead of starting at 11 am (local). “I heard that there was a midnight curfew here for tennis, but even like that (…) it still leaves us seven hours to play,” said the Serbian.
“There is light on the courts. I do not understand why they do not shift. It would make life easier for many tennis players here”, argued “Djoko” who can, if he wins in Tokyo and offered the US Open, achieve the extremely rare “Golden Slam”, namely to win all the major titles in an Olympic year.
30 seconds longer
The other annoyance, the reduced side change rest time to one minute, no longer irritates players. They were heard by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) which announced on Sunday that the rest time would now be 1 min 30, as is usually short in other tournaments.
“The protocol on high heat was put in place this Saturday, when the temperature exceeded 30.1 degrees”, including a 10-minute break granted between the 2nd and 3rd set, said the body.
The ITF has also not ruled out suspending matches “if temperatures rise further”, setting up an advisory committee, made up of the referee, medical services and organizers, to monitor the situation.
In summer in Tokyo, temperatures traditionally hover between 32 and 35 degrees, with humidity between 70 and 80%. This heat-humidity combination, particularly trying for the body, was one of the main fears of athletes coming to Tokyo.
Several of them have put in place protocols before coming to Japan to try to prepare their bodies for these extreme conditions. But that will not necessarily have been enough: Friday, the Russian Svetlana Gombeova thus passed out, victim of a “heat stroke” during the qualifications for archery.