TOKYO – Roland Garros finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova grabbed an air tube during a medical timeout and felt frustrated with the lack of ice in a short-side container.
German player Mona Barthel struggled with 10 double faults in a loss to Iga Swiatek as a blinding sun made it almost impossible to see the ball once she threw it.
Heat and humidity quickly became a major issue when the Olympic tennis tournament opened on Saturday. The temperature climbed to 93 degrees and the heat index made it feel over 100.
“You don’t feel good,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “So I didn’t like it at all. ”
Still, Pavlyuchenkova routed Sara Errani of Italy, 6-0, 6-1, and Swiatek – last year’s Roland Garros champion from Poland – beat 172nd Barthel, 6-2, 6- 2, in the opening game on center court.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic’s candidacy for a Golden Slam is alive and well after a 6-2, 6-2 win over 139th Hugo Dellien of Bolivia.
The top-ranked Serb is trying to become the first man to win all four major tennis tournaments and an Olympic gold in singles in the same year.
“You feel constantly dehydrated,” said Djokovic, who at least played later in the day when half the pitch was in the shade. “There is no air circulation.”
Halfway through her second set, doubts started creeping into Pavlyuchenkova’s head as she slipped ice packs up her skirt during a change. Then she struggled to fiddle with a tube blowing cold air next to her seat.
“It’s not easy to find the right position because it’s right on the bench and someone has to hold it so that the air is blowing on you,” said the Russian.
Second seed Daniil Medvedev, who also competes for ROC at the Tokyo Games, called him “one of the worst” he has played in after knocking out Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, 6-4, 7 -6 (8).
“But you have to play,” Medvedev said. “It’s the Olympics, you’re aiming for the medal. You are not here to cry because of the heat.
Medvedev suggested that organizers move all matches to the evening to avoid the heat of the day.
“I don’t think they’re going to change anything in the middle of the tournament, but that’s what can be done,” he said. “The fact that we only have a minute between changes is a joke. … It should be 1h30 like in other tournaments.
“I sincerely don’t get it,” Djokovic said, adding that later departures would also work better for broadcasters in the United States and Europe due to the time difference.
Melted ice in containers on the yard side.
“Whenever I had to take the ice pack or the ice towel, it was not cold at all,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “They expected the heat, and it wasn’t 100% ready for us.”
Pavlyuchenkova needed more than an hour after her match to recover before speaking to reporters.
“I feel a little better, but I just have a huge headache now,” she said. “I think they could have tried to make it a little easier.”
On one occasion, Barthel completely lost sight of the ball on his serve.
“I was blinded by the sun,” said the German player. “I couldn’t see him anymore.”
There are rules for extreme heat that require a 10 minute break between the second and third sets if players request it. Play may also be suspended if an internal advisory group deems conditions unsafe, in which case play would continue on center court under a retractable roof.
Aiming for his fourth Olympic medal, Andy Murray and his British partner Joe Salisbury beat the second seeded France team Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, 6-3, 6-2, in doubles. Murray is the reigning two-time Olympic singles champion and won a mixed doubles silver medal at the 2012 London Games with Laura Robson.
Also in doubles, singles players Ash Barty and Storm Sanders of Australia knocked out host Japan’s Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya, 6-1, 6-2.
Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, eighth seed, Maria Sakkari of Greece, 14th, Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, 16th, and Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, also progressed in singles on the hard courts of the tennis park. Ariake.
Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open finalist, defeated 16th seed Kiki Bertens, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. in the last game of Bertens’ career.
In the men, 11th seed Aslan Karatsev of ROC, 15th Fabio Fognini of Italy and 16th Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain advanced in the men.
Djokovic’s next opponent will be the German Jan-Lennard Struff, 48th, who knocked out Thiago Monteiro of Brazil, 6-3, 6-4.
Golubic will then face home favorite Naomi Osaka or China’s Zheng Saisai.
The Osaka-Zheng match was originally scheduled to start on center court, but that was postponed until Sunday before Osaka lit the cauldron in Friday’s opening ceremony.