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The U.S. Open in NYC has been heating up — literally


It is September now, but it's still hot in much of the U.S. And it's especially true for tennis players in New York City, where the U.S. Open is approaching its semifinals in sweltering conditions. Organizers partially closed the roofs on stadium courts to offer more shade, but they couldn't really do much about the heat and the humidity.


JULIA ELBABA: It's pretty warm today, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Very humid conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Pretty muggy, pretty hot.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Just really humid. Just feels like it just drains you.

SUMMERS: Ooh, sounds hot. Julia Elbaba has been covering the tournament for NBC Local Sports and she joins me now. Hi, Julia.

ELBABA: Hi. It is hot.

SUMMERS: It is hot. OK, tell us more about that. I mean, you have been actually in the main Arthur Ashe Stadium the last few days. Have you been toweling off, carrying a fan? What has it been like?

ELBABA: Fans, players, staff - we're all suffering. But then you kind of tell yourself, if the players can do it, you can sit out there and watch, right? Temperatures are 90 degrees Fahrenheit. But let me tell you this. The hard courts - they absorb the heat, so it actually makes it 10 to 15 degrees hotter.

SUMMERS: Oh, gosh.

ELBABA: So we're looking at 100 to 105 degrees on-court right now, and that's without the humidity. So these players - you got to think they're struggling a bit.

SUMMERS: OK, I like hot weather, but that does not sound like so much fun to me. As we just mentioned, the roof was partially closed in an attempt to offer players and spectators alike more shade. From what you know, how much did that actually help these players?

ELBABA: So the partial closing of the roof is a new rule that was implemented at this year's U.S. Open. It wasn't even a thing before. And according to players yesterday, it's not really helping too much because, while the sun isn't coming in, there's less of a breeze. So it's kind of like, would you prefer to have sunlight, or would you prefer to have the breeze?

SUMMERS: I mean, Julia, it's kind of scorching everywhere right now. None of us are really strangers to high temperatures, but I'm sitting in a studio. We are not also running around on a tennis court for hours trying to show off our skills at the peak of our sport. I understand that you are a former pro tennis player yourself. Can you just help us normal folks understand what heat can do to a player's game?

ELBABA: Man, oh, man. Well, you're talking to an extreme sweater.

SUMMERS: (Laughter).

ELBABA: So I sweat excessively. I go through so many different grips on my rackets just to be able to hold the racket on a normal day. So even on an extremely hot, humid day, I'm using extra grips, tons of towels, like, wringing out my clothes because they're just drenched with water. So with the heat rule, the women - in singles, they get a 10-minute break between 2nd and 3rd set. They get to go into the air conditioning, change their clothes, ice all over your body. And then on the men's side, they get a 10-minute break between the 3rd and 4th set. That could be three or four hours.

SUMMERS: Wow. A recent AP analysis found that all four major tennis tournaments have seen increasing high temperatures in recent years, reflecting the effects of climate change. What are some ways that organizers of tennis tournaments can keep players as cool but also as safe as possible as they play?

ELBABA: Well, maybe more breaks. Any time you can just get into that air conditioning and cool off, bring that body temperature down, it really would make a huge impact. Another idea is, when the roof closes, why don't we put some air in there, which they're not doing right now. So we got to consider - how can we change this? How can we make it more comfortable for the players? Because the more comfortable they are, the better tennis - us fans, viewers, reporters can, you know, enjoy the tennis even more.

SUMMERS: That is Julia Elbaba, who has been covering the U.S. Open for NBC Local Sports. Julia, thanks so much.

ELBABA: Thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.