Players could get heat breaks
BEIJING (Reuters) - Players in the Olympic tennis events could be allowed heat breaks if the stifling weather continues, International Tennis Federation (ITF) president Francesco Ricci Bitti said on Saturday.
Temperatures into the high 90s Fahrenheit combined with suffocating humidity have made practice sessions a real struggle this week with several players saying they are the most difficult conditions they have faced.
"I've never, ever, played in worse humidity than this, these are extreme conditions," Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic told reporters on Saturday. "It's hard to adapt but you can't cry and look for excuses."
In regular tournaments and grand slams, with the exception of the Australian Open, there is no provision for men to have heat breaks but Ricci Bitti said contingency plans were in place for the Olympic tournament.
"It's within the power of our officiating team to take measures in case the situation is reaching an unacceptable level," he told reporters on the eve of the tournament.
"The conditions are not the best, but our players are very strong. What is important is the health of the player.
"The position now is that the health of the players is not at risk but each sport has some flexibility by the IOC."
Women's Tour chiefs, the WTA, adopted an Extreme Weather Rule in 1992, which allows a 10-minute break between the second and third sets should the Heat Stress Index reach 82F or the actual temperature reaches 90F.
Heat breaks are occasionally taken by men and women players at the Australian Open where fierce heat in normal.
The Heat Stress Index factors together the air temperature, the humidity and the radiant heat from the court surface, which is more of a factor on the kind of hardcourts being used in Beijing. The men's ATP is yet to adopt such a policy.
Rain and temperatures up to 88F are forecast for the opening day on Sunday and Monday, with humidity around 90 percent.
Australian Open champion Djokovic said it was about time the ATP considered the idea of breaks for men in extreme weather were considered.
"With the big heat and big humidity our lives are becoming a bit tougher," he said. "I think that the people should consider our health as well."
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