October 16, 2018

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When the Rain Comes, It’s Nap Time for Tennis Players

When the Rain Comes, It’s Nap Time for Tennis Players
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MONTREAL — The D.J. was in the midst of his set, carefully choosing songs for an audience of roughly two dozen die-hard tennis fans at the Rogers Cup here on Wednesday.

There was Prince’s 1984 hit “Purple Rain.” Then, he elected to go with “Can’t Stop the Rain” by Cascada. At the end of the Guns N’ Roses classic “November Rain,” the rain-soaked crowd finally heard the news it had been dreading: Play was officially canceled for the evening.

Tennis fans and players have heard that a lot in the past two weeks, as bad weather has plagued tournaments in the East during the lead-up to the United States Open this month.

Rain dampened the joint ATP/WTA Citi Open in Washington for the event’s first five days last week, repeatedly forcing play to stretch well past midnight. Stan Wawrinka and Donald Young went on court for their first-round match after 1 a.m., only to see drizzle return during the warm-up. Andy Murray’s round-of-16 victory over Marius Copil started one minute before midnight and finished at 3 a.m. Murray, citing fatigue, withdrew from the tournament before his quarterfinal, a match that would have been postponed by rain anyway.

At the men’s Rogers Cup in Toronto this week, there were rain delays every day before Friday, while the women’s version of the event in Montreal had delays on two days.

Postponements often forced players to complete multiple rounds in a day. In Washington, Andrey Rublev had to play two matches in a day twice. He ultimately lost last Saturday in a semifinal — the second half of his second doubleheader.

On Thursday night in Montreal, Venus Williams and top-ranked Simona Halep met in the third round, just hours after both won their second-round matches. Halep prevailed, 6-2, 6-2, in 71 minutes.

Halep had needed more than three hours to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova earlier in the day. Before facing Williams, she spent her down time in the players’ lounge, trying to recover. Halep wanted to nap, but could not fall asleep.

“I don’t really know the routine because we don’t play very often two matches in a day,” she said after beating Williams.

Alexander Zverev, who was spotted doing the wave in Washington during a rain delay last week, said his sleep schedule was the only thing that changed on a wet day.

“I take a few more naps during the day, and that’s it,” said Zverev, who won the title in Washington and lost in the quarterfinals in Toronto on Friday. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter when you play. You still have to go out there and try to win.”

Maria Sharapova had a similar approach.

“I have no Spanish in me, but I like my siestas,” she said, smiling. “In between training when I have two sessions a day, it’s the only way to get through those days, is having that little bit of time for yourself.”

For tournament organizers, the solution is not so simple. They must balance the needs of players, while ensuring proper protocols are followed.

“There’s so many different variables to take into consideration,” Eugène Lapierre, the Rogers Cup tournament director, said in Montreal. “We rely a lot on the WTA and the supervisors. They have unwritten rules where you know what to do when a player plays doubles or singles, and it’s finished too late and you can’t start too early.”

Part of the challenge is the humidity, and drying hardcourts in an efficient manner. Lapierre mentioned that his crews rehearse for these situations in the weeks before the tournament.

“The courts just won’t dry,” he said. “It takes a bit longer, so you really have to get the blowers out longer to make sure that the surface is really dry.”

Then there’s the question of fan engagement and keeping crowds around the venue for when play does resume. That’s when the music becomes a factor.

“Of course, we do have those rain songs and everything,” Lapierre said.

While the situation is far from ideal, there are some positives for organizers. With people huddled underneath tents and in restaurants for extended periods, food and beverage sales go up. For many fans, the tennis isn’t the only highlight of the tournament.

“Last night, even after we canceled play, there were a lot of people on site,” Lapierre said Thursday. “They came here to have a good time, so a lot of them gathered in the restaurants, and the party went on past 10 p.m., even though we knew at 8:30 that no games were going to resume. It was interesting to see people were having fun.”

Curtis Rush contributed reporting from Toronto, and Ben Rothenberg from Washington.



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