U.S. Open officials have agreed to initiate a partial closing of the domed roofs at its two stadiums but are standing by their decision not to close them entirely despite the 90-degree plus temperatures, high humidity, and the complaints by players and fans alike.
Officials say the roofs will stay open at New York’s Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“Following the conclusion of the Jelena Ostapenko-Coco Gauff match on Tuesday, September 5, the tournament opted to partially close the roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium. Additionally, following the conclusion of the first set in the Linette/Pera-Brady/Stefani match, the roof in Louis Armstrong Stadium was partially closed,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier told the New York Post on Thursday.
“The decision in both instances was made to provide relief from the sun and heat for the fans. By partially closing the roofs, both courts became shaded, which improved conditions for the players,” Widmaier explained. “This decision is made by the Tournament Referee, but he got input from tournament management and the medical team.”
“At that point in the tournament,” he added, “all singles matches were and would continue to be, scheduled in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Also, that point on Tuesday marked the first time the Extreme Heat Policy went into effect.”
The Open has allowed longer breaks between sets and more frequent “health breaks” during matches. Fans were also handed free sweatbands for sitting in the sweltering stands.
Temperatures have been hitting the low 90s in New York this week, with humidity frequently reaching into the mid-90s.
The Open ruled in 2016 that the roofs will “remain open” unless severe rain affects play. In a 2016 post explaining the policy, officials wrote, “The roof will be either fully open or fully closed, and it will not be used to protect ticket holders from heat or direct sunlight. The position of the roof for succeeding matches will be determined by the tournament referee.”
This rule was partially disregarded during this week’s games, though, as officials allowed the roof to be partially closed to block the most direct glare of the sun.
Tennis Hall of Famer Joe McEnroe blasted the Open for refusing to shut the roofs fully and to turn on the air circulation system.
“These poor guys today … they looked like they’re going to fall over,” McEnroe said on ESPN Wednesday. “It’s not humane in a way.
“I’m sorry. Please, USTA, in the future, I think seriously we should close the roof,” McEnroe added.
Player Daniil Medvedev seemed to agree with that. During his game Wednesday, he said, “One player [is] gonna die,” thanks to the extreme heat.