By 1:00 p.m. EDST on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, temperatures reached 95 degrees at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City’s sprawling Flushing Meadows public park. With high humidity also in attendance, the heat index spiked to nearly 110. On court temperatures were even higher, as the blue, heat-retaining hard courts at the Open offered no mercy.
In these conditions, and on that day, the United States Tennis Association (“USTA”) expected professional athletes to play professional sports. For the most part those athletes responded, aided by ice baths, ice towels, and of course various and sundry sports drinks and the ever-present banana. Nevertheless, five men retired from matches, many calling conditions perilous. One, Argentine Leonardo Mayer, called for the Open to relent and change men’s matches from five-set affairs, to best of three, as the women play. Yet others noted that women get a break after two sets from the heat, while men normally get no breaks during their longer matches.
The USTA did eventually relent, allowing for long breaks in certain matches. That was true for Novak Djokovic, coming off his victory at Wimbledon, and hoping to add to his slam tally. Said Djokovic, of his break during his three-hour, four-set battle against Marton Fucsovics, interrupted for a break in play: “Then Marton and I were having an ice bath, next to each other — we battled for two-and-a-half hours and then we were naked in the ice bath,” he said. “It was a magnificent thing.”
Magnificent indeed Novak. Indeed.