Djokovic, Medvedev urge schedule rethink as tennis stars toil in Tokyo heat
TOKIO, JULY 24: Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev called on organisers to delay the start times of Olympic tennis matches as players laboured in the sweltering Tokyo summer heat on the opening day of the tournament.
World number one Djokovic encountered little resistance from Bolivia's Hugo Dellien in a 6-2, 6-2 first round win, but like many others found the playing conditions particularly demanding.
Medvedev, a 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) winner over Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik, suggested putting back matches until the evening, having started his opening round shortly after midday in blazing sunshine.
"I agree with him 100 percent," said Djokovic, who revealed he had asked the ITF about the issue as well.
"To be honest I don't understand why they don't start matches at say 3pm. I've heard that for tennis there's some kind of curfew and they have to finish by midnight.
"If that's the case, I just finished the last match (on centre court) and it's not even 5pm. We still have like seven hours to play, they have the lights on all the courts.
"They (could) make life much easier for all of us thanks to this. I just don't understand why they don't move it. I doubt they will change the decision but we're hoping that they will."
Medvedev admitted the conditions were "some of the worst" he had ever experienced.
The Russian narrowly avoided going three sets after saving a set point in the second set tie-break before sealing victory over the dangerous Bublik.
"I think... the matches should maybe start at like 6pm because the heat actually gets much lighter," said Medvedev, whose match began with temperatures hovering around 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).
"I don't think they're going to change it in the middle of the tournament, but that's what can be done and the fact we have only one minute between changeovers is a joke.
"I think if you ask 200 tennis players here, I think 195 will say one minute is a joke and it should be 1:30 like it is in Asian tournaments."
Medvedev, a two-time Grand Slam finalist who will meet 160th-ranked Sumit Nagal of India in the second round, is fairly well acclimatised to the heat, spending his summers on the French Riviera after relocating from Russia.
"Where I live in summer in Cannes can be really hot, I'm not going to lie, but you have to play. That's the Olympics, you go for the medal. You're not here to cry about heat, it was really tough for both of us," said Medvedev.
The Russian has fond memories of Tokyo having won the Japan Open as a qualifier in 2018, when he beat home favourite Kei Nishikori in the final.
But Medvedev made it clear that Djokovic, who is chasing a calendar Golden Slam, is very much to man to beat at this year's Olympics.
"My first goal is to try and win every match here," said Medvedev.
"When I come to the Olympics all I want is a gold medal, but we all know who is the favourite and it's not me. I'm maybe kind of close but not the favourite, so I just try to do my best." -AFP