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Djokovic reaches US Open semis but calls for action after 'sweat break' in sauna-like conditions

Australia’s John Millman had to ask the umpire to stop play so he could change his sweat-soaked clothes.

Djokovic defeated John Millman 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 despite a six-and-a-half-minute delay as the Aussie changed his sweat-soaked clothes
Djokovic defeated John Millman 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 despite a six-and-a-half-minute delay as the Aussie changed his sweat-soaked clothes
Image: Dubreuil Corinne/ABACA

THE US OPEN quarter-final between Novak Djokovic and John Millman ground to a bizarre halt at 2-2 in the second set Wednesday when the umpire gave Millman permission to leave the court to change his sweat-soaked clothes.

A break in play of six and a half minutes saw 13-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic remain on the court as Australia’s Millman — who apologized profusely to Djokovic — disappeared.

“I could do with a rest,” said Djokovic, who also used the break to send a ballboy over to his box in the stands seeking to get some tablets he thought his wife had brought to the tournament for him.

US Open Tennis Source: Frank Franklin II

When play resumed, Millman held serve for a 3-2 lead in the second set — then they both sat down for the changeover. The Serb would ultimately emerge victorious 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in a match featuring an array of entertaining but physically draining rallies.

Millman, ranked 55th in the world and playing in his first Grand Slam quarter-final, admitted that when he asked the umpire if he could leave to change — he didn’t know what the rule was.

US Open Tennis Millman apologises to Djokovic for the sweat-induced delay Source: Frank Franklin II

The US Tennis Association issued a statement on the incident, saying the umpire deemed the situation to be within the “Equipment Out of Adjustment” provision — and the moisture dripping from his clothes was hazardous enough to warrant the break.

A similar situation occurred between the fourth and fifth sets of Rafael Nadal’s victory over Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, when Thiem was allowed to retrieve dry shoes from the locker room, which extended the normal amount of time between sets.

Djokovic said the fierce humidity that has prevailed throughout the tournament had made competing a sweatier affair than he’d ever seen.

US Open - Novak Djokovic Source: Dubreuil Corinne/ABACA

“Incredible,” said Djokovic, who called for tournament organisers to address the air circulation issue courtside at Arthur Ashe Stadium. “I mean, I have to take 10 shirts every match. It’s literally after two games you’re soaking, you know?

“I asked the chair umpire whether they are using some form of ventilation or air conditioning down at the court level side, and he said that he’s not aware of it.

I think that this tournament needs to address this, because whether it’s night or day, we just don’t have air down there. It feels like a sauna.

“I don’t know what to add to that. Obviously, it is fantastic to have the roof. We, as players, are grateful that we have the roof, because then the rain will not interrupt the matches and matches will go on, on two courts, which is great.

But I think that with so many players retiring that first round, first day or second day, and so many players struggling to breathe, especially on the center court … There is no circulation of the air at all, especially court level. I think that’s something to really think about, consider and address.

Two-time US Open champion Djokovic will face Kei Nishikori in his 11th consecutive semi-final in New York, just two months after defying the odds to lift a 13th major at Wimbledon.

The 31-year-old Serb holds a 14-2 advantage over Nishikori including wins at Wimbledon and Rome this year.

However, one of Nishikori’s wins came in the semi-final in New York in 2014 before the Japanese star finished runner-up to Marin Cilic.

US Open - Quarter Finals Nishikori celebrates his quarter-final win Source: Dubreuil Corinne/ABACA

“When Kei is on, he’s a top-five, top-10 player,” said Djokovic.

“He has a great two-handed backhand, great footwork and is one of the quickest players on tour.”

In the other semi-final, Rafael Nadal squares off with Juan Martin del Potro. The Spaniard is just two wins away from an 18th Grand Slam title, which would put him just two behind Roger Federer.

© Agence France-Presse

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