The “mild and sunny weather” Tokyo’s bid for the Summer Olympics promised in 2013 was nowhere to be seen on the first day of the Tokyo Olympic tennis competition.
Actually, there was plenty of sun on Saturday at Ariake Tennis Park, but few would classify the weather as mild.
“It’s different,” Poland’s Iga Swiatek said after her 6-2, 6-2 win over German Mona Barthel. “It’s humid. In some places in the States it was probably similar, but still, I’m not used to it.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic took center stage, the threat posed by Tokyo’s stifling summer heat was the major topic around the Tokyo Games. Concerns about the weather led organizers to move the marathon north to Sapporo and also come up with measures to protect fans and athletes from heatstroke.
The heat has already had an impact on the Games. An umpire had to be attended to during a softball game, while Russian archer Svetlana Gomboeva fainted during competition on Friday.
Russia tennis player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova struggled with the conditions against Sara Errani on Saturday. Pavlyuchenkova won easily 6-1, 6-1, but needed a medical break during the match and reported feeling dizzy afterward.
“I didn’t expect that because I’ve been here for a couple of days now and I didn’t have that issue in practice,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “Of course it was always very hot, but I think we were managing it, we had more of a break time between points, we were stopping. The match was different because you have shorter time between points. It was more intense and after some long rallies it was really tough on me.”
Players drank water and used ice to stay cool during breaks. Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik poured the contents of his water bottle on his head at one point. Anything to beat the heat.
The projected high in Tokyo on Saturday was 33 Celsius. The conditions on the hard courts at these Games can be tough to handle when paired with the regular demands of a tennis match. The temperature during a match between Russian Daniil Medvedev and Bublik was listed at 31.4 with 78% humidity just before 2:30 p.m.
“My perfect weather is in Great Britain or maybe in 2020 Roland Garros,” Swiatek said, referring to her French Open victory in Paris last year. “So I would say it’s hard to get used to it. But I gave myself time because we came to Takasaki before going to the Olympic Village and we’ve dealt with humidity. Right now it’s much easier.
“But still, when the stress comes, and all the different factors that you have in the match it’s different.”
South Korean archer An San said on Friday the conditions were similar to what she experienced in her homeland.
“In terms of weather, Korea is actually more humid than in Japan, so I’m really used to this kind of weather,” she said. “But it’s definitely different from other countries where I did other competitions. I think that kind of had an effect on my condition today, and my performance.”
While the tropical storm approaching Japan’s main island of Honshu may give athletes a new weather-related issue to think about, Tokyo’s not-so-mild summer may continue to be a concern.
Pavlyuchenkova said she would just manage it as best as she could moving forward.
“I don’t know if I can do anything much different to be honest,” she said. “Because it’s something you can’t control, I can’t control the heat or the weather. The only thing I think I can do is probably hydrate even more, have ice towels on before the match, probably during warmups have a lot of ice on me. Try to get my body as cool as possible before I go on court.”