Djokovic stays cool in a very hot U.S. Open
6:48 PM
Art Spander in Caroline Wozniacki, Marin Cilic, Novak Djokovic, U.S. Open, articles, tennis

By Art Spander

NEW YORK — The air was unhealthy. The heat index was unreal. It was sport in a steam bath, officials intervening, players withdrawing, everybody — on court or in the stands — more concerned with what was on the thermometer (the temperature reached 95 degrees) than what was on the scorecards. 

This is America’s tennis championship, the U.S. Open, and so far no one has been able to whip that feisty lady Mother Nature. She’s been in control from the first match. “Extreme weather conditions,” was the official announcement. Are they ever.

The end of summer in New York, Odell Beckham Jr. getting headlines on the front and back page of the New York Post for signing with the football Giants; the Yankees losing ground in their attempt to overtake the Red Sox; and Roger Federer and Serena Williams back at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, out where the Mets play at Citi Field and the jets swoop low when they land at LaGuardia.

The Open is noisy, as is everything in New York; exciting, since if you can make it here you can make it anywhere; and hot, although rarely as hot as this August, when on Tuesday five men — none of them named Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal — withdrew because of conditions so severe that it was decided to give everyone a 10-minute break before a possible third set.

There are now retractable roofs on two of the courts, including the main one, the 23,000-seat Arthur Ashe Court, but understandably officials from the U.S. Tennis Association do not want to close the roofs unless there is rain. Players under cover would have an unfair advantage over those on the outside courts.

Not that those in the night matches, Federer and Maria Sharapova among them on Tuesday, don’t have an advantage over those out in the midday sun, which as the lyrics go is for mad dogs and Englishmen. And on Tuesday for Djokovic, a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 winner over Martin Fucsovics, and Caroline Wozniacki, who beat one-time champ Sam Stosur, 6-3, 6-2.

“Yeah, it was very hot conditions for sure,” said Wozniacki, the Australian Open champion. “I just tried to stay cool. We got a little lucky. In the shade, I was able to cool down a little bit. So that helped.”

Marin Cilic, who won the Open four years ago, was a winner when his opponent quit — well, the explanation is “retired” — at 1-1 in the third set after losing the first two sets, 7-6, 6-1.

“Conditions were extremely tough,’ said Cilic. ”Very humid, very hot. The ball was flying a bit more than usual, so I was having a tough time trying to control it. I was missing some easy balls, making unforced errors that are not that usual for me.”

He won. Whatever the situation, the better players inevitably do, which is why they are the better players.

Djokovic was the best player a couple of years ago, in the rankings and in the minds of most others. He had a stretch of four straight Grand Slams, from the 2015 U.S. Open through the 2016 French Open. Then he collapsed.

Maybe because of a bad elbow. Maybe because of reported family troubles. Now, after a win at Wimbledon a month and a half ago and victory over Federer in Canada, he’s back.

He did worry Tuesday because he said the heat made him feel sick during his match, even asking for assistance. The No. 6 seed, Djokovic recovered while taking the 10-minute break before the fourth set and then breezed without losing a game.

Argentine Leonardo Mayer, one of those who couldn’t finish, said of the allowed recess, “Ten minutes? I would have needed an hour and a half.”   

Djokovic and Fucsovics only needed to take an ice bath. That was cool, in more than one way.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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