How hot is too hot was the subject up for debate at the US Open on Tuesday after brutal conditions took their toll.
Four men were unable to complete their matches because of the effects of the heat and humidity, while Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic was also in trouble before recovering to beat Marton Fucsovics.
Stefano Travaglia complained he could not walk straight before he pulled the plug against Hubert Hurkacz. Leonardo Mayer and Ricardas Berankis also succumbed while veteran Mikhail Youzhny was consoled by opponent Marcos Baghdatis as he lay stricken on court with cramp.
The US Open took the unprecedented step of introducing a heat policy for the men, giving the option of a 10-minute break between the third and fourth sets of matches – the women can take a break between the second and third sets under WTA rules.
But several players went further and claimed conditions – with temperatures in the mid-30s and in excess of 50 per cent humidity – were too extreme and that matches should not have been played at all.
Julien Benneteau, who defeated Marco Cecchinato, told French reporters: “With this heat and humidity, I think that they shouldn’t play between noon and 4pm. They were lucky. They only had retirements.”
Fucsovics was tied at one-set all and up a break on Djokovic when he also began to struggle with the heat, going on to lose 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-0.
He said: “It was fun to play in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, the first time for me, first time against Djokovic, but it wasn’t fun to play in the heat. I was dying after each point. It was too hot for tennis. It’s dangerous.”
Djokovic called for the doctor during the second set and asked for a bin to be placed next to his seat because he felt so nauseous.
He said: “It’s understandable why players were complaining about it because only players know what they were experiencing today on the court. It’s quite tough. It’s really sad to see. There’s so much cramping going on. You don’t want to see that.
“You have to be fit, of course. I agree with that. But there are some conditions that are so extreme that, as fit as you are, you can’t just not feel it.”
The Australian Open has an extreme heat policy where play on outside courts is suspended if the combination of heat and humidity reaches a particular reading, but it is up to individual tournaments to set their own rules.
With temperatures potentially even higher on Wednesday, a US Open spokesman said: “We will be doing this on a case-by-case basis, and so tomorrow we will be making that determination whether we will implement an extreme heat policy for the men for a second time.”
At tour events where temperatures are routinely very high, matches often do not start until the evening, and Djokovic would welcome a similar approach here.
He said: “The grand slams are different, obviously, because you have so many matches. You have to justify the schedule and tickets and all these things. It’s not as simple as let’s just move one match three, four, five hours later.
“At the same time, I am on the players’ side, so I would always support implications of the rules and regulations that would be in favour of players’ health most of all.
“Obviously this tournament is famous for its night sessions. I’m sure the schedule of the day wouldn’t be harmed so much if you start a bit later.”
The sixth seed said he was in “survival mode” against Fucsovics, and it was only when the Hungarian began to wilt at 4-3 in the third set that Djokovic was able to turn things around.
The pair opted to take the 10-minute break, and Djokovic said: “Marton and I were in ice baths next to each other. We were naked in the ice baths and it was a quite wonderful feeling.”
Roger Federer had the relative luxury of playing in the night session – although it was still hot – and overwhelmed Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2 6-2 6-4.