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Mailbag: Calling for a Common Sense Heat Policy at the U.S. Open

Jon Wertheim's U.S. Open mailbag of course features the discussion on the tournament's heat wave, Alize Cornet's changing controversy and much more.

Wednesday is mailbag day, so here we go. A U.S. Open-themed dispatch from Flushing Meadows:

I was watching the U.S. Open last night and was surprised when commentator Pam Shriver said she commended the women players for not retiring due to the heat. I was really struck by this. These are professional athletes who are well paid to play tennis. They have towels, trainers, water, even shade on parts of the court. During the changeovers, they’re shaded with umbrellas and doused with ice bags. We paying fans in the extreme heat are not afforded the same luxuries. Seems to me the bar is pretty low for Pam to applaud them for simply being able to complete their matches. Do you agree?
Thank you, 

—Dominic Ciafardini, New York

• If we are commending players for completing matches, it seems that we are condemning them for retiring. Which is a bad precedent and a bad policy. So far this tournament, three days in, the heat has been the story. And given environmental patterns, this trend figures to continue. This is a balancing test. First and foremost, we don’t want athletes or fans in any health danger. On the flip side: this is not a desk job where you can adjust the thermostat. Part of sport is discomfort. Part of sport is dealing with different conditions. Part of sport is conditioning and doing prep work to build stamina. 

For every player who thinks best-of-five tennis in triple-digit temperatures is nuts—multiple players have asked whether someone has to die before this is taken seriously—there’s another wondering why those in superior shape should be punished. There’s hardly consensus here.

But we need common sense here. Tennis has its objective determination. We keep hearing about the threshold on the WetBulb index. Not to get all Bill Nye on you but: the WetBulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) is a measure of the heat stress in direct sunlight, which takes into account: temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover (solar radiation).

What about an objective measure? When it’s too damn hot—trust us to know it when we see it—you postpone play.

Simona Halep's First-Round Exit Clears Path for Serena Williams at U.S. Open

Jon, I know you picked Halep to win the tournament. If you had a do-over who would you take?
—Carl C., Hartford, CT

• I’m still mystified by Halep’s loss. You won a major, proving to yourself that you are capable of winning seven matches at a Slam, finally extinguishing all those doubts. You won in Montreal, beating Sloane Stephens in the final and solidifying your No. 1 ranking. You pull out of New Haven so you come in somewhat rested...and then you lay an egg like that, losing in straight sets? 

Anyway, thanks, but I don't believe in mulligans. Make a lousy pick and you have to marinate in it for 13 days.

Did Nike give Roger Federer maroon shoes to match his maroon shirt? Or did Uniqlo make a maroon shirt to match his maroon shoes?
—Name withheld, New York

• Given that Federer is being paid nothing to wear Nike shoes, you can safely assume that Uniqlo set the standard and Nike reacted.

How in the world did the USTA manage in this age of hyper-technology to mess up the TV camera angle in a brand new multi-million dollar stadium. This is beyond bad. I’m surprised they’re not broadcasting in black and white at Armstrong. They need to address this ASAP! Are they even aware?

• As soon as the Serena catsuit controversy died down, questions came fast and furious about the TV angle on Armstrong. I confess: I didn’t understand this at first. Great court. The rare renovation that came in under budget. It contained the roof we all lobbied for. Then I saw a televised match. In two letters: oy. This is a serous design flaw and needs to be corrected. The broadcast of the second crown-jewel court looks like a high school match. (And you can’t zoom in without clipping the courtside sponsor signage, which ain’t gonna happen.)

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One point of clarification: don’t blame the networks. The cameras are the cameras, and they can only be stationed in places designed for cameras. The directors will try and use the low angles as much as possible, especially between points. But you can’t show an entire match from that angle. Whether it’s putting up a new beam and moving the camera to the other end of the court, this has to be dealt with for next year. 

Can't wait to hear your thoughts about Cornet's changing on court.
—J. Thrasher

• It was wrong and sexist and showed stupefyingly bad judgment. But everyone has apologized and admitted wrongdoing, so let’s move on. 

Alize Cornet Penalized For Briefly Taking Off Shirt on Court Due to Heat At U.S. Open

Nice to see Patty Schnyder and Vera Zvonereva get through the qualies.

• We always have a lot of fun with these qualies stories, but this year takes the cake. Vera Zvonera—former Wimbledon finalist—qualifies and wins her first match in three sets. Patty Schnyder qualifies at age 39, two decades (!) after beating Steffi Graf and reaching the quarters. (She lost in straight sets to Maria Sharapova in the first round). Genie Bouchard, trying to revive her career, qualifies and surrenders fewer games than anyone.

This event speaks so well of tennis. Lessons include: A) you author your own story and can rewrite it quickly. B) Nothing is irreversible. C) Age is just a number. 

On this point, if I am parent and my kids are considering committing themselves to a sport, if one of them allows them to play until their mid-30s, that is a decided point of favor.

Read Mike Olerich on the the Serena catsuit controversy.

Hi coach, I want to know if you are available for private soccer session for 10 kids aged 13-16. How much will cost to take them 3x a week M/W/F= 12 session monthly.
—D.W. Diaz

• Wrong guy.

While watching the opening night ceremony last night, I thought it would be good idea to move this back and have it on the Sunday before the tournament starts. Why have the opening ceremony when there have been a bunch of matches already completed? I think having it on Sunday would truly make it more of an opening of the tournament. Your thoughts?
—Bob Diepold, Charlotte

You need a full crowd for the Opening Ceremony to work. So you would need a match to follow. But I have no objection to this: Start the event on the Sunday night. You get an extra session. You get a weekend. I’m all for it.