Tennis stars melt from heat in 'joke' conditions

2 months ago 17
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French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova grasped for an air tube during a medical timeout and grew frustrated at the lack of ice in a court-side container.

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Heat and humidity quickly became a major issue when the Olympic tennis tournament opened on Saturday.

The temperature soared to 34 degrees and the heat index made it feel more than 38 C.

"You're just not feeling great," Pavlyuchenkova said.

"So I wasn't enjoying it at all."

Still, Pavlyuchenkova routed Sara Errani of Italy 6-0, 6-1.

Daniil Medvedev cools down during the break with air from a mobile air conditioner and a towel with ice cubes. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa (Photo by Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images) (Getty)

Midway through her second set, doubts started to creep into Pavlyuchenkova's head as she shoved bags of ice up her skirt on a changeover.

Then she had trouble fiddling with a tube blowing cold air next to her seat.

"It's not easy to find the right position because it's just on the bench and somebody has to hold it so the air is blowing on you," the Russian said.

"I don't think it was well prepared."

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev, who also competes for ROC at the Tokyo Games, called it "some of the worst" heat he has played in after eliminating Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan 6-4, 7-6 (8).

"I'm not going to lie. But you have to play," Medvedev said.

"That's the Olympics, you go for the medal. You are not here to cry about the heat."

Medvedev suggested that organisers move all matches to the evening to avoid the heat of the day.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in action at Roland Garros (Getty)

"I don't think they are going to change anything in the middle of the tournament, but that's what can be done," he said.

"I think the fact that we have only one minute between the changeovers is a joke... It should be 1:30 like it is in other tournaments."

Ice melted in court-side containers.

"Every time I had to take the ice pack or ice towel it wasn't cold at all," she said.

"They expected the heat and it wasn't 100 per cent ready for us."

Pavlyuchenkova needed more than an hour after her match to recover before talking to reporters.

"I feel a bit better, but I just have a massive headache now," she said.

"I think they somehow could have tried to make it a bit easier."

Mona Barthel struggled with 10 double-faults in a loss to Iga Swiatek as a searing sun made it nearly impossible to see the ball once she tossed it.

On one occasion, Barthel lost sight of the ball completely on her serve.

"I was blinded by the sun," the German player said. "I couldn't see it anymore."

There are rules for extreme heat that call for a 10 minute break between the second and third sets if players request it.

Play can also be suspended if an internal advisory group deems conditions dangerous — in which case play would continue on centre court under a retractable roof.

Iga Swiatek of Team Poland in action at the Olympics (Getty)

While Swiatek also acknowledged how "hard" it was dealing with the heat, she seemed more pleased to extend a family legacy at the Olympics.

She grew up listening to stories from her father about competing at the 1988 Olympics in rowing, then won a bronze medal herself in doubles at the 2018 Summer Youth Games.

Swiatek beat the 172nd-ranked Barthel 6-2, 6-2 in the opening match on Center Court.

"It's just special playing for Poland and representing your country," said Swiatek, who won last year's French Open.

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