Tennis matches in the Tokyo Olympics will now start later each day after players requested a schedule change due to the high heat and humidity, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said Wednesday, as athletes have struggled with the weather at the Tokyo Games—projected to be the hottest Olympics on record.
Tennis matches will now start at 3 p.m. instead of 11 a.m. after players asked the ITF to make the schedule change.
The ITF said in a statement it had made the decision to change the schedule “in the interests of player health and welfare and following extensive consultation” based on the “increasing heat and humidity currently being experienced in Tokyo.”
The decision came after some players suffered heatstroke on Wednesday, with Spanish player Paula Badosa leaving her match in a wheelchair.
Russian tennis player Daniil Medvedev struggled with the heat Wednesday so much he at one point told the chair umpire, “I can finish the match, but I can die,” the Associated Press reports.
“If I die, are you going to be responsible?” Medvedev asked the umpire, later telling reporters he felt “darkness” in his eyes while playing and “couldn’t breathe properly,” and said he “was ready to just fall down on the court.”
Tennis players have expressed issues with the heat throughout the Olympics, with Russian tennis player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova having to take a time out after feeling faint due to heat on Saturday and Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 ranking tennis player, saying the humidity was “brutal.”
88 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s how hot it was in Tokyo on Wednesday, the AP reports, but noted that with humidity it felt like 99 degrees. “It was the most humid day we had so far—maybe the hottest,” Medvedev told reporters.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) previously told Forbes in an email that it “takes concerns about heat very seriously” and “athletes’ health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns.” The IOC has imposed a range of measures to help combat the heat, including cooling tents, changing the schedules of other events to accommodate the heat and moving the Olympic marathon and race walking to the city of Sapporo, Japan, which is cooler than Tokyo.
NBC has projected the Tokyo Olympics will be the hottest Games on record, and the sweltering temperatures—particularly the high humidity—have impeded athletes throughout the Games. In addition to tennis, Russian archer Svetlana Gomboeva collapsed on Friday due to the high temperatures, for instance, and Olympic organizers have had to start hosing down the beach volleyball courts after players complained the sand was burning their feet. Some officials had warned about the risk heat could pose before the Games started, with Haruo Ozaki, the chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association, saying earlier in July that “holding the Games during July and August … was a serious issue even before the coronavirus pandemic” due to the “high risks of heatstroke.” Climate change is likely to make extreme heat and other weather events a growing concern for the sports world—already forcing a number of changes beyond the Olympic Games—and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be held in climate-controlled stadiums in an effort to combat the region’s high temperatures.
The 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the last time the Japanese city hosted the Summer Games, were moved to October to accommodate the heat in the region. Since then, NBC reports, the average July and August temperatures in Tokyo have gotten 2.7 degrees warmer, and there are now eight more days of weather above 95 degrees Fahrenheit on average.
Sweltering Conditions Are a Tough Opponent at the Tokyo Olympics (Wall Street Journal)