TOKYO (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev – the two best male tennis players in the world – on Saturday appealed to Tokyo Olympics organizers to move matches late in the afternoon for the remainder of the competition in order to save the players from the stifling conditions.
Temperatures hovered around 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 ° F) and the high humidity made it extremely difficult for players, who didn’t find much comfort in ice packs and a hose blowing cool air.
World No.2 Medvedev suggested moving all matches to the evening and found support from top Serbian Djokovic.
“I agree with him 100%,” Djokovic said after finishing his first round match on center court at Ariake Tennis Park in an hour. “In fact, I also asked. My team captain, Viktor Troicki, has spoken to the referee on several occasions.
“To be honest, I don’t understand why they don’t start games at 3pm, let’s say. I’ve heard that for tennis there is some kind of curfew so they finish before midnight. I did, I just finished the last game, I didn’t, even 5pm.
“We still have about seven hours to play. They’ve got the lights on all the courts, they’re going to make life easier for all of the players. I just don’t understand why they don’t move it, I honestly don’t understand. “
The International Tennis Federation, which is the governing body for sport at the Olympics, said its “extreme weather policy” was implemented during the day.
The policy allows a 10-minute break between the second and third set if both players agree, while play can be suspended if conditions are deemed unsafe. However, play on center court can continue after the retractable roof has been closed.
“The health of the players is paramount and great attention has been paid to the start at 11 am or later,” the ITF said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
“The decision to hold 11 a.m. was made on the basis of data, a nine-day event and to take into account factors such as restrictions by local authorities due to COVID-19 and the unpredictability of the weather report.
“Extreme conditions will always put pressure on a schedule and make an optimal schedule difficult. Precipitation is as much of a problem as extreme heat.”
Djokovic said a delayed start could also help broadcasters in the United States and Europe.
“I doubt they will change the decision, but we hope they will,” said the 20-time Grand Slam winner.
Competing in Tokyo as a representative of the Russian Olympic Committee because the country was stripped of its flag and anthem for doping offenses, Medvedev collapsed in his chair with his head bowed after his victory over Kazakh Alexander Bublik .
“The games should maybe start at six o’clock because it shines a lot of light on the pitch,” the 25-year-old told reporters.
“Some tournaments do. I don’t think they’re going to change in the middle of the tournament but that’s what can be done.”
Calling the conditions “unbelievably hot”, Medvedev was also not happy with the length of the change during the Olympics, especially with sweltering conditions on the pitch.
“The fact that we only have a minute between changes is a joke,” he said. “I think if you ask, let’s say 200 tennis players who are here, I think 195 will tell you that a minute is a joke and it should be 1:30 like in ATP tournaments.”
Medvedev’s compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also pleaded with organizers to help the players.
Pavlyuchenkova had to take a medical time out after feeling dizzy in her win over Italy’s Sara Errani and was battling dehydration even after spending an hour after her match recovering.
“I thought on the court that for tennis players the conditions are really tough,” said Pavlyuchenkova, complaining that she couldn’t find enough ice on the court because it had melted.
“It’s very hot there, the sun is shining very bright, when you serve it’s right in your eyes. It’s tough conditions but of course for everyone.
“They could have tried to make it a little easier for us, but it’s the Olympics, so there’s not really much we can do about it.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Ken Ferris)