What is the US Open Heat Policy?

In a first, the US Open had to enact an extreme heat policy on the second day of the tournament’s 128th edition after realizing the scorching conditions under which the players had to at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre. The conditions at the US Open can be harsh, especially when matches are played on hard court.

Weather reports have consistently reported the mercury at New York to touch over 32°C during the US Open. Furthermore, players also deal with the heat and the humidity that can range between 45-50%. Such an environment can make it difficult for the players to endure on the courts where the temperature can be felt nearing the 49°C mark.

The new Louis Armstrong stadium houses 14,000 people but does not have an air-conditioning system and instead relies on a unique naturally cooling ventilating system. This surely does not seem to bring comfort to the players or the spectators, as a result of which, Brian Earley, the US Open’s tournament referee released an emergency statement on 29th August 2018.

  • “For all women’s singles matches, a 10-minute break will be allowed between the second and third sets if either player requests such a break.”
  • “If both players decline a 10-minute break, then play shall be continuous. Appropriate medical timeouts for heat-related illness are allowed.
  • “For all men’s singles matches, a 10-minute break will be allowed between the third and fourth sets if either player requests such a break.
  • “If both players decline a 10-minute break, then play shall be continuous. Appropriate medical timeouts for heat-related illness are allowed.”

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which governs the women’s tennis circuit has already had a rule since 1992 wherein the ladies can take a certain time to rest if the heat stress index reaches 86°F. For the men, this is the first policy related to heat at the US Open.

It indeed is surprising that the ladies have breaks in best of three set matches whereas the men’s game didn’t have any such policies in best of five set matches. Apart from the players, even spectators have found the temperatures to be distressing at the Flushing Meadows.

Despite the heat policy being implemented, on its debut day, six men retired and five others complained about heat related degrading health issues.

“There’s really nothing you can do but try to hydrate the best you can so your body is holding onto the water and you’re not letting the water go out so fast. That’s what leads to cramps and it’s definitely not easy out there. So the thing that makes it fair, though, is every single person is playing in it.” – Venus Williams

“You’ve got to be ready. And, I mean, mentally, physically, we all know that US Open can be like that. There can be some difficult days like this. There can be some windy days. Even a little bit cooler days. So you have to be ready.” – Marin Cilic

The US Open has now become the second slam to execute the Extreme Heat Policy after the Australian Open.

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