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It's So Hot In Tokyo That Officials Are Having To Reschedule The Tennis Matches

Russia's Daniil Medvedev returns the ball to Italy's Fabio Fognini during their third-round match Wednesday at the Tokyo Olympics.
Russia's Daniil Medvedev returns the ball to Italy's Fabio Fognini during their third-round match Wednesday at the Tokyo Olympics.

On Wednesday, the heat was so intense in Tokyo that Spanish tennis player Paula Badosa got heatstroke during her quarterfinal against Marketa Vondrousova and retired from the match, leaving the court in a wheelchair.

Another player, Daniil Medvedev of Russia, struggled to breathe through the hot and humid conditions of one of his matches. He told the chair umpire: "I can finish the match but I can die."

Now, world tennis officials say they will start Olympic tennis matches later in the day to avoid some of the sweltering Tokyo temperatures that have been plaguing the outdoor sport.

The International Tennis Federation announced that beginning on Thursday, tennis matches in the Tokyo Games will start at 3 p.m. local time — when temperatures typically start to cool in Tokyo — instead of 11 a.m.

The decision was possible "due to the outcomes of today's matches across the five competitions being staged and the size of player field and is designed to further safeguard player health," the governing body said.

Paula Badosa of Spain is helped off the court in a wheelchair after retiring due to illness on Wednesday during the quarterfinals of the tennis competition at the Tokyo Olympics.
Seth Wenig / AP
Paula Badosa of Spain is helped off the court in a wheelchair after retiring due to illness on Wednesday during the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics tennis competition.

The schedule change came after several players complained that the high temperatures and humidity were impinging on their ability to participate in the competition.

Medvedev and Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic had previously criticized the ITF for not pushing the start times later to improve conditions for players.

"I don't understand why they don't start matches at, say, 3 p.m.," Djokovic said last week. "We still have seven hours to play. They have lights on all the courts."

The ITF said at the time that the decision to begin matches at 11 a.m. was "based on data, a nine-day event and to accommodate factors such as local authority restrictions due to Covid-19 and the unpredictability of the weather."

This year's Olympic and Paralympic Games are expected to be among the hottest competitions on record, driven in part by high humidity and a "heat island" effect that traps heat in large urban areas such as Tokyo. Daily temperatures are expected in the high 80s and low 90s throughout the Games, but with humidity it can feel more like 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

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