As I reported yesterday, the junior matches were scheduled to begin an hour later – at noon – today, so I took my time packing my luggage and getting out to the site. Shortly after I arrived, there was an announcement that all junior and wheelchair matches were delayed due to extreme heat. The temperature reading at that time was 87 degrees, hot but certainly not what we in the South would consider “extreme”.
So, since the only tennis being played was Men’s Doubles on Armstrong, I decided to walk around the grounds and see if I could locate some of the junior players and their coaches on the outer courts getting in an extra practice. I was curious to talk to some of them about the heat rules so far this week.
As it turns out, all the coaches I spoke with were pretty upset over the rule. In their minds, it punishes the players who have put in the work to train and prepare to compete in these conditions. Those players should be allowed to capitalize on their fitness level. Brian Teacher, the 1980 Australian Open Champion who played at UCLA in the ’70s and is now working a bit with 14-seed Brandon Nakashima, couldn’t believe the tournament would implement such a policy, recounting the number of times he competed in conditions that were well-worse than what we were experiencing in Flushing. Tennis is part technique, part movement, part intelligence, and part fitness. If you remove one of those components, it changes the nature of the game.
I also had the opportunity to speak with someone in the USTA booth about the policy. As we talked, it became very clear the tournament can do more to educate the coaches and players on proper heat management as well as take some extra precautions on the court. Right now, there are ice towels and umbrellas available to the players, but why not use ice vests and/or large fans to help players cool off during side changes? I looked on the USTA Player Development website for information on preparing for and managing the heat, but there isn’t currently much helpful information there. Click here to see what I found.
Interestingly, the tournament decided to put players on court around 3:30pm when the temperature reading was 93 degrees, even hotter than when they announced the delay. I haven’t had a chance to hear from the people in charge of making these decisions, but this one seems really wonky. Couple that with the fact they knew rain was coming (as evidenced by the closing of the roof on Ashe early in the afternoon in preparation for the evening’s Women’s Semifinal matches), and it’s mind-boggling that they wouldn’t have scheduled the juniors to start earlier in the day rather than an hour later.
Thankfully, the temperatures are slated to drop for the remainder of the tournament. My hope is that once the event is complete, the decision makers will sit down together and come up with a heat policy that makes a bit more sense as well as some better educational materials for the players, parents, and coaches.
Okay, enough about the heat! I understand some of you are having trouble hearing the interviews I’ve been posting – you can hear me just fine, but the person I’m interviewing is at a lower volume. I’m so sorry! Apparently, YouTube used to have a fix, but it is no longer available. I’m trying to find other software to help me remedy the issue. In the meantime, please try turning up the volume on your computer or device and let me know if that helps. I would hate to think this valuable information is unusable!
For today, please check out these videos with Jon Wertheim, Pam Shriver, and Colette Lewis.
For today’s results, read Colette’s post here. Tomorrow’s junior matches once again start at Noon.