For players competing on the hard courts, which pushes temperatures even higher, it was enough to trigger the Women’s Tennis Association’s Extreme Heat protocol, which requires players to score a 10 after the second set of a three-set match -Take a minute break to get off the seat for a change of clothes, a quick shower, or both.
“I dreamed about the heat rule,” Liudmila Samsonova said during her on-pitch interview after beating Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6 6-3 6-2 in a sweatfest that lasted 2 hours and 22 minutes.
Their game started at midday on Stadium Court and the temperature was rising steadily. Samsonova put an ice pack wrapped in a towel on her neck during the changeover. After claiming the second set with an even draw, she got the reprieve she was longing for. “It helped a lot,” she said of the 10-minute break. “I showered, changed.”
With the heat sapping everyone’s energy, the tournament grounds were oddly subdued. On the black asphalt walkways that meander around the seats, spectators took turns in front of the “Power Breezer,” an industrial-size fan that ejects a stream of water along with a gust of air – similar to a car wash with no foam or bristles.
With virtually all the remaining players on duty Thursday – including five who were due to compete in both singles and doubles – the coaches, who tour the men’s and women’s pro circuit to tape ankles, knead muscles, were first Making diagnoses and administering treatments is busy.
Placed second Emma Raducanu faced Camila Osorio of Colombia at 14:30 on Stadium Court in full sun, and the first set alone lasted 79 minutes, littered with served breaks and unforced errors.
Dimitry Tursunov, who is training the reigning US Open champion for the first time at this tournament on a trial basis, watched from Raducanus’ box. Tursunov spent much of the game keeping an eye on his charge while covering his head with a towel.
“I think I died about three times in that match,” Raducanu said on court after her 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4) win.
According to WTA Supervisor Kerrilyn Cramer, as part of the WTA’s extreme heat policy, the chair umpire has no leeway to extend the time limit between serves. But Raducanu and Osorio twice got an extra reprieve in the second set when each called on the coach to tape blisters that worsened amid the heat and sweat.
Osorio needed a big toe and Raducanu needed her right hand.
Being able to just sit down for treatment seemed healing in itself as the game surpassed the 2 hour 30 minute mark.
Swede Mikael Ymer said he was grateful to have played on clay last week in Umag, Croatia, where it was even hotter and helped him adjust to the Washington heat.
“The conditions are very tough,” said Ymer after moving into the quarter-finals on Friday with a 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4 win over Emil Ruusuvuori. “I think we play one of the toughest sports on this planet because, in addition to the heat, you have to make so many decisions all the time. I run a lot because my father was a runner. . . . When I’m running in the heat, I can just focus [on the] Next Step [and] grind it out but [in tennis]you grind and at the same time you have this opponent that you have to beat.”
In the late afternoon, the sky darkened over Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, and at 6 p.m. the first clap of thunder broke as fourth-placed Reilly Opelka and 2019 Citi Open champion Nick Kyrgios took to the court.
The game was stopped 15 minutes later due to lightning.
At that moment, Hyattsville native Frances Tiafoe, 24, was stuck in the first set of his match against number 8 Botic van de Zandschulp.
Tiafoe, who learned to play at College Park’s Junior Tennis Champions Center, is ranked 27th in the world, close to his career high of 25th, and is brimming with confidence after reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon.
He has won just one ATP title during his seven seasons on tour (the 2018 Delray Beach Open) and said this week he would like to win his second at the Citi Open in Washington, which he competed in at the age of 4. He recalled his childhood awe at seeing tennis greats like Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Juan Martin del Potro, among others.
“Winning this tournament would mean the world to me,” Tiafoe said after beating compatriot Chris Eubanks on Wednesday. “… to have my name in the stadium [where champions’ names are listed] would mean a lot to me.”
Tiafoe, a fan favorite among family and lifelong friends in the Washington area, said he and his agent are doing their best to fill 56 ticket requests.
“I had 56 reasons why I wanted to win today,” said Tiafoe. “A lot of people came to see me play and hopefully win.”
The previous Thursday, third-seeded Taylor Fritz, the top-seeded American, was eliminated from his match against Briton Dan Evans, trailing 4-1 in the decider.
Conditions promised to fall hardest on those scheduled to play both singles and doubles matches on Thursday. These included Tiafoe, Kyrgios, Evans, Van de Zandschulp and, for women, Xiyu Wang of China.
In such cases, tour policy states that a player will not begin their second game of the day until “after a reasonable interval.”
Under WTA rules, Cramer explained in an email, a tour official will meet with the player after her singles match to determine if she requires medical attention or a meal before resuming play.
In extreme heat, the tour would be a little more “generous,” Cramer said. But there is usually a 90-minute break between games.
“The ‘heat’ factor might cause us to add maybe 15 more minutes to it, but no more,” Cramer wrote. “Players also want to make up if they wait too long, they are here until later today and then have to come back and play the next day. So all these factors are taken into account.”