Djokovic blasts 'extreme' conditions

Tennis star Novak Djokovic blasted conditions at the Beijing Olympics as "extreme" on Saturday.

updated: August 12, 2008 16:47 IST
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Tennis star Novak Djokovic blasted conditions at the Beijing Olympics as "extreme" on Saturday while the sport's global chief played down fears over heat, humidity and smog.

Djokovic said he had never experienced such humidity and hoped new rules would be made to protect the players. "Conditions are extreme," said the world number three, who has been troubled by throat problems this season.

"I never, ever played in worse humidity than here," the Serbian added. International Tennis Federation president Ricci Bitti said players were not at risk and contingency plans were in place. "I'm sure the conditions are tough but it's in the power of our officiating team to take measures in case the situation reaches an unacceptable level," he said.

"I believe everything's under control. The conditions are not the best for humidity and that but our players are very strong. They go all round the world on their travels." Hot and humid conditions at the open-air Olympic Green Tennis Centre have been a major talking point among players.

Wide-ranging and stringent measures to ease air pollution have also had limited effect, with Beijing remaining swathed in grey haze.

The Women's Tennis Association allows players to request a 10-minute break if the temperatures reaches excessive levels. But the men's body has no equivalent, prompting Djokovic to call for talks on the matter. "For us players the priority is to be healthy and to be able to continue playing for a long time," he said.

"You don't want to finish your career in one year and with big humidity and heat our lives are becoming a little bit tougher." Ricci Bitti said tennis officials had been given some "flexibility" by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to act if on-court conditions become unbearable. "I think, honestly, what's important is the health of the players," he said.

"The position today is that the health of the player is not at risk at all, but we have people that manage competitions all year round and we know in case there are unacceptable conditions we will take some decisions on time. "We have some constraints but each sport has been given some flexibility by the IOC."

Several other players have complained about sauna-like conditions during their training sessions here. "It's tough. It's maybe the hottest weather I've experienced," Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova said this week.

Australia's Samantha Stosur said: "It is very hot and very humid and the sun isn't even out yet, so I'm sure it will probably only get worse from here. "It is unpredictable and probably the hottest conditions we are going to play in all year." Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, who won singles bronze and doubles bronze in 2004, also joined a number of athletes in expressing concerns about the air quality.

"The conditions are really tough with the pollution and it's really hot," he said. The tennis tournament gets under way on Sunday with forecast temperatures of up to 28 degrees Celsius with 90 percent humidity.