On Monday this week, the fourth and final Grand Slam event of tennis for 2018 started its contest at its usual spot at Flushing Meadows, New York City. The US Open of this year is also something of an end to a brief era in Grand Slam history where there are 32 seeded players in the tournament ever since the number was increased in 2001; the number of seeds would return to the original 16 by 2019. But that is not the only thing this US Open is being known for. It is also garnering a harsh rep for forcing players to compete in punishing heat, leading to the inevitable.
BBC has it that on Tuesday, August 28, the summer heat has made the playing courts for the 2018 US Open into health hazards. With recorded temperatures nearing 38°C (100°F) and worsened by a 50% increase in humidity levels, it was understandable that about six US Open competitors were forced to retire from their scheduled matches on account of “dangerous” playing conditions. Of the six, five players bowed out explicitly due to “heat-related” issues: Stefano Travaglia (Italy), Ricardas Berankis (Lithuania), Leonardo Mayer (Argentina), Mikhail Youzhny (Russia) and Filip Krajinovic (Serbia).
“They were lucky they only had retirements,” commented tennis world number 60 Julien Benneteau of France, who managed to win his day 2 match but was of the opinion that all noontime matches should have been postponed for the benefit of the players. He is not alone in this regard; Novak Djokovic, fresh from his Wimbledon triumph, remarked that winning his Men’s Singles 1st Round match against Marton Fucsovics on that hot Tuesday was a chore. He also said that the debilitating physical effect of the extreme temperatures on some of the players for Day 2 was disheartening in severity.
It was the men’s division of the US Open that was adversely affected by player retirements due to the ATP governing body having a discretionary rule policy for deciding when to call off matches on account of the heat. The women’s WTA on the other hand has an extreme heat policy that does take temperature reports into consideration. It was decided by the organizers due to the events of Tuesday that the men’s matches will implement an extreme heat policy as well, a divisional first. This allowed for rest breaks after set 3 in men’s matches if either or both players want; women’s breaks occur between sets 2 and 3.
That comes rather late for Mikhail Youzhny, former tennis world number 8. Following his match retirement in the US Open Tuesday, he will retire permanently from the sport next month.
Image from New York Post