Think back to Flushing Meadows last year and one of the lasting memories might be Jack Sock slumped on Grandstand, over-heated and in some serious trouble.
Sock wasn’t the only player to succumb to the heat and the demands of 5 sets. The record-breaking retirement list for the Men’s tournament, rounds 1&2 alone, reads like so: Monfils, Lu, Mayer, Dolgopolov, Stepanek, Nedovyesov, Baghdatis, Gulbis, Andujar, Kokkinakis, Pospisil, Istomin 3. Some of these players, like Sock, were in a commanding lead when effects began to show – an attractive trade for anyone who manages to strike before the market collapses.
It’s not only retirements where advantage can be gained from quick identification of an injured/fatiguing player. Bernard Tomic had a narrow escape in a turbulent match vs Leyton Hewitt during which for significant periods he appeared, for want of a better word, cooked. On the Betfair exchange Tomic went from 1.01 to long-shot before fighting back to win (thanks largely to a Hewitt collapse when serving for it). Though from how Bernie looked, I’m sure not all Hewitt backers traded out…
Why Flushing Meadows 2015?
If we look at the New York weather reports for that week, the first 4 days of the tournament saw higher than average temperatures, in fact Thurs 3rd Sept was a record high of 34oc for that date and the highs for the 3 days prior weren’t far behind (33oc,31oc,30oc) 1. Anyway, 34oc?! That’s nothing compared to the Australian Open where Melbourne regularly tops 40oc, so what’s the problem, you ask? Well, humidity has a huge part to play too. On average January is Melbourne’s least humid month of the year averaging at less than 60% 6. New York however consistently hits highs of 80%+ and even recorded 94% on Wed 2nd Sept, 2015 1. Considering this alongside such heat, it’s not surprising that many (especially the profuse sweaters of the game) start to struggle 3hrs or so into a hard-fought contest 1. Talk to Todd Woodbridge if you don’t believe us.
“@usopen most physically demanding of slams due to combo of heat/humidity even more than the 43c days @AustralianOpen,” 4 (yes, we stalk all the ex players on twitter)
And this year?
Conditions may not be quite so hot and humid this year round, but they likely won’t be far off. Early forecasts suggest high 20’s, maybe touching 30oc 5.
End of a Gruelling Season
Players have long campaigned for more breaks in the relentless tournament schedule. As soon as they’ve finished singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ they hit the courts and many wont plan a week off until the end of the season comes round eleven months later. Inevitably injuries and niggles will be suffered, and whilst players may withdraw from smaller events, the lure of a Grand Slam’s higher rewards and prize money mean many will try and manage such injuries and play through any niggles. So, it is reasonable to expect more battle-weary players in the US Open draw than there might have been in the earlier Slams and therefore a higher potential for odds-crashing physical issues or retirements.
In the cases of Sock and Kokkinakis, the cause of retirement was cramping or heat-exhaustion (or a combination of both). There could be a trend to look out for – some younger players might not have built up the physical conditioning that more established players have. As a match goes 4 or 5 sets deep, there may be a greater chance of collapse, in both physical condition and odds.
All this considered , and with no shortage of TV feeds at Grand Slams these days, it’s certainly shrewd to follow the early rounds closely. Buzzers at the ready for if and when you sense an imminent flake!