DrAnil Medvedev was feeling the heat Wednesday afternoon at the US Open, and it wasn’t coming from rival Andrey Rublev, who was on course to beat him in straight sets in the quarter-finals. As the sun set on Flushing Meadows, the players – and the crowd – boiled in oppressive humidity.

“One player is going to die. They will see,” the world No. 3 said, wiping the sweat from his brow.

Medvedev is known for his outspokenness, but other players have struggled in the past few days as New York was hit by a late summer heatwave, exacerbated by the humidity and lack of any cool breeze.

“I don’t feel like the heat bothers me much,” said Taylor Fritz, the No. 9 seed, earlier in the tournament. “I feel (when) it’s so wet… it just drains you.”

During Coco Gauff’s straight-sets quarter-final win on Tuesday, the thermometer on Arthur Ashe rose above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) as the humidity soared. On Wednesday, wheelchair play was postponed until late afternoon due to the cold weather. The uncomfortable conditions were a flash point in the tournament, and organizers decided they would partially seal the roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium when the temperature and humidity rose. With more steamy weather expected for the rest of the week, we’ve officially come to the exciting part of the US Open.

This has been expected for some time. A recent Associated Press study of average high temperatures in the four tennis tournaments over the past 35 years found a “serious” increase in recent years, citing climate change as the catalyst. In the past, the Australian Open was always presented as an exceptional case of sweltering heat, with players cramping and panting when smoke from bushfires in 2020 affected the tournament’s air quality. And while the Associated Press study found that temperatures at the Australian Open rose sharply, the US Open was the hottest of the four Grand Slams by about 3 degrees Fahrenheit.

More importantly, the retractable roofs covering Ash Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium have only been a feature of the tournament since 2016 and 2018 respectively – and before that there was no cover from the elements. Even with their introduction, tournament officials tended only to keep cover on the exhibition courts in case it rained. then again, In the past, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have complained about the lack of movement on the courts when the surfaces are closed. With the roof open during Tuesday’s game against Gauff, Jelena Ostapenko said she struggled to track the ball. “Half the court was in the shade and the other half in the sun,” she said. “Some balls I didn’t really see, like they were flying.”

A man rests in the shade as temperatures remain high at the US Open. Photo: Seth Wing/AP

Folding fans were a popular accessory on a Bright Wednesday afternoon that saw temperatures soar to 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius). Inside the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, spectators gathered around tree-shaded courts and followed paths lined by the courts. At times during Wednesday’s game, Medvedev inflated his inhaler to help him breathe.

“The thing is, I don’t think it worked because I don’t know how to use it,” he said before the game. “I’m really having trouble breathing, so I’m not going to joke about it now like I did two or four days ago. I’m going to use it.”

Since 1988, the US Open alone has been responsible for more than half of the 17 occasions where at least 10 players have retired early due to the heat. The 2018 edition saw six players withdraw from the men’s draw on day two. At one point during her opening round match that year, France’s Alize Cornet told the court doctor she needed to vomit and felt pain in her head and bones. (Conditions that year have been described as a “nightmare.”) In 1997, when court surface temperatures soared to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius), players feared their sneakers would melt. They weren’t kidding.

Over the years, players have adopted different methods to beat the heat, usually taking plenty of water and ice between plays. In Tuesday night’s quarter-final match against compatriot Frances Tiafoe, Ben Chilton ran a portable air conditioner on his shirtless torso during one change. Later, he described the heat and humidity of the match as an exhausting test, which is okay, coming from a Florida native.

“You have Francis Tiafoe on the other side of the court, and you have the weather you had there,” said Shelton, whose game was shaped at the University of Florida, where he learned how to handle the heat. “It was very humid, very hot. I think seventy-five percent of the game we were very tired finishing the points, trying to catch our breath.

Based on the weather forecast, the best chance for Shelton and the other players remaining in the draw is to keep their cool.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: