TOKYO — Bent over in exhaustion before serving. Resting on his racket between points. Grasping for a rubber tube blowing cool air next to his seat on changeovers. Two medical timeouts and one visit from a trainer.
Daniil Medvedev was struggling so much with the suffocating heat and humidity at the Ariake Tennis Park on Wednesday that at one point the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, asked him if he could continue playing.
“I can finish the match but I can die,” Medvedev replied. “If I die, are you going to be responsible?”
Afterward, Medvedev said he felt “darkness” in his eyes.
“I didn’t know what to do to feel better,” the ROC player added. “I was ready to just fall down on the court.”
Still, the second-seeded Medvedev produced a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini of Italy to reach the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics.
Spanish player Paula Badosa was less fortunate. She left the court in a wheelchair after retiring from her quarterfinal match against Marketa Vondrousova because of heatstroke.
Vondrousova, the Czech player who eliminated Naomi Osaka a day earlier, had won the first set 6-3. She’s now in the semifinals and into the medal rounds.
After some rain a day earlier, the temperature rose to 88 degrees F (31 degrees C) but the heat index made it feel like 99 degrees F (37 degrees C).
The problems the players faced raised questions over why organizers did not grant requests earlier in the tournament from Medvedev and other players — including top-ranked Novak Djokovic — to move all of the tennis matches at the Games to the evening.
Organizers said immediately after Medvedev’s win that they were “considering” playing the matches later, starting Thursday.
Medvedev received medical treatment and had his chest massaged while leading 5-2 in the opening set but then held his serve in the next game to close it out. He then took another medical timeout while trailing 4-3 in the second.
“I felt like my diaphragm has blocked,” Medvedev said. “I couldn’t breathe properly. It was the most humid day we had so far — maybe the hottest.”
With so much suffering, Medvedev took his time between points, which drew protests from Fognini.
Both players were allowed to leave the court for 10 minutes between the second and third sets with an extreme heat rule in effect.
Medvedev said he took a “cold, freezing shower” during the break but that the sharp change in temperature put his body into shock and caused him to cramp.
After holding for a 5-2 lead in the third, Medvedev received yet more medical treatment when a trainer came out onto the court and massaged his left arm and thigh.
Fognini slammed his racket onto the court in disgust when the match was over, then picked the racket up and placed it in a court-side trash can.
Medvedev — if he’s up to it — will next face sixth-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain for a spot in the medal rounds. Carreno Busta beat Dominik Koepfer of Germany 7-6 (7), 6-3.
Also advancing was Kei Nishikori of Japan, who beat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 7-6 (7), 6-0. Nishikori’s quarterfinal opponent will be either Djokovic or 16th-seeded Alejandro Davidovich of Spain, who were playing later.
Djokovic is scheduled to play twice Wednesday. He’s also teaming up with Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic against Marcelo Melo and Luisa Stefani of Brazil in the opening round of the mixed doubles competition.
In singles, Djokovic is attempting to become the first man to achieve a Golden Slam by winning all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.
Djokovic has already won the Australian and French Opens plus Wimbledon this year, so now he needs the Tokyo Games title and the U.S. Open trophy to complete the unique collection.
Vondrousova’s semifinal opponent will be fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who beat Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-4, 6-4.
It’s been quite a month for Svitolina, who married French player Gael Monfils before flying to Tokyo. Monfils was sitting courtside cheering on his new bride, having already been eliminated from both the singles and doubles tournaments.
The couple got married on July 16 but have delayed their honeymoon until November, when the tennis season ends.
Svitolina is the highest seeded singles player remaining after top-ranked Ash Barty, No. 2 Osaka and No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka each lost.
In doubles, Andy Murray and British partner Joe Salisbury lost to Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig of Croatia 4-6, 7-6 (2), 10-7. Murray, who was the two-time defending gold medalist in singles, withdrew from that competition because of a right quad strain.