Tennis stars feeling the heat at Arthur Ashe Stadium

Conditions at Arthur Ashe Stadium have come in for criticism from leading tennis players amid stifling heat during the ongoing US Open in New York.

The grand slam continues today (Friday) with the men’s semi-finals, before the women’s and men’s finals are held on Saturday and Sunday.

Novak Djokovic will be in action later today against Kei Nishikori and the Serbian has been speaking about the lack of ventilation at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is the largest tennis arena in the world.

In the summer of 2016, the 23,000-seat facility was fitted with a retractable roof, which is deployable when matches are affected by rain. While ensuring that matches can still go ahead in the event of a downpour, the roof’s structure has reduced air circulation inside the arena, leading to difficult conditions for players down on court.

The lack of air circulation, coupled with soaring temperatures in New York over the past two weeks, has proved far from ideal for players. “I have never sweated as much as I have here,” Djokovic (pictured) said, according to The Telegraph.

Two-time US Open champion Djokovic, who was speaking following his quarter-final win over John Millman, added: “I have to take at least 10 shirts for every match. I asked the chair umpire whether they are using some form of ventilation or air conditioning down at the court level, and then he says ‘Only what comes through the hallway’. This tournament needs to address this. Because whether it’s night or day, we just don’t have air down there. It feels like a sauna.”

Roger Federer, who lost to Millman earlier in the week, also said the lack of air circulation at Arthur Ashe Stadium “makes it a totally different US Open”.

The sport’s biggest names such as Djokovic, Federer and six-time women’s champion Serena Williams are, more often than not, drawn to play on the showpiece Arthur Ashe Stadium, which some fans feel provides them with a disadvantage compared to players who play on smaller courts where there is more ventilation.

“Look that’s a fair question,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier told the Reuters news agency. “Obviously all singles matches are being played in Arthur Ashe Stadium right now so there isn’t that type of imbalance. That being said, if you said that on day three, it’s a legitimate question.

“After every US Open we look back and see where we were strong, see where we can improve. Will there be another means of looking to see if you can create on the court level… some way to promote air circulation on these very still days? I think we’ll discuss that as well.”

Widmaier added: “In addition to it being pretty hot temperature-wise and high humidity, there’s not much natural air circulation.

“The way that the system is built in Arthur Ashe Stadium, we really can’t operate our (air management) system unless the roof is closed and that’s just because of the engineering. We didn’t envision needing it or using it except when the roof is closed.”

Image: Hanson K Joseph