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Tennis Blistering heat forces Games to schedule matches earlier

BENT over in exhaustion before serving. Resting on his racket between points. Grasping for a rubber tube blowing cool air next to his seat on changeovers. Two medical timeouts and one visit from a trainer.

Daniil Medvedev was struggling so much with the suffocating heat and humidity at the Ariake Tennis Park today that at one point the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, asked him if he could continue playing.

“I can finish the match but I can die,” Medvedev replied. “If I die, are you going to be responsible?”

Afterward, Medvedev said he felt “darkness” in his eyes.

“I didn’t know what to do to feel better,” the Russian Olympic Committee player added. “I was ready to just fall down on the court.”

Somehow, the second-seeded Medvedev still pulled out a 6-2 3-6 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini of Italy to reach the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Spanish player Paula Badosa was less fortunate. She left the court in a wheelchair after retiring from her quarter-final match against Marketa Vondrousova because of heatstroke.

Badosa also had to withdraw from a mixed doubles match later with partner Pablo Carreno Busta.

Vondrousova, the Czech player who eliminated Naomi Osaka a day earlier, had won the first set 6-3. She’s now in the semi-finals and into the medal rounds and will next face fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

Ninth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland will play 15th-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the other semi-final match.

After some rain a day earlier, the temperature rose to 31°C but the heat index made it feel like a sizzling 37°C.

The problems the players faced raised questions over why organisers did not grant requests earlier in the tournament from Medvedev and other players, including top-ranked Novak Djokovic, to move all of the tennis matches at the Games to the evening.

As today’s play neared its conclusion, organisers announced that matches would begin at 3pm starting tomorrow to make it easier on the players. Matches had been starting at 11am.

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