Recently, Rafael Nadal has been catching some heat from Federer for his lengthy breaks and according to a survey, about three-quarters of us fans are unhappy with his many mini-vacations during matches as well, although officials don't seem so awfully concerned. The whys and what-nots of this make for an interesting story I dare not venture into just now.
But, this does remind me of the lengthiest changeovers I ever experienced, accepted by all and for the right reason - we were all about to die.
I grew up in hot and very humid Columbia, SC, played many sports, soccer included, which is basically 90 minutes of movement, running and sprinting with a 10 or 15 minute break thrown in the middle during half-time. Athletically and physically, it felt great, as if I was better conditioned than most who hadn't played sports or trained in these conditions, or perhaps overall.
I've traveled a fair portion of this globe, usually having avoided most colder climes for any considerable length of time. Yep, I'm a winter wuss and there just so happens to be a few inches of a freezing rain, sleet and snow cocktail just outside my door right now. I'm embracing it. I have told many that Columbia, SC is the most humid place on the planet. Of course, most would cite some place they lived or traveled to as being more humid, until they came here. "You weren't kidding", was usually the response.
A few years ago it was time again for the Sunburn Tennis Open, hosted at the Lexington County Tennis Complex, one of the best public facilities you will find. As much as I enjoy warm (hot) weather and have played for hours voluntarily in some very steamy temps, Sunburn, has been charred into my memory. Not so much as for the potential for a sunburn, being that my Nordic fair-skinned self has acquired some deep color, but for the sheer unrelenting heat that takes place as this event - it's late July in Columbia.
On this one day, we had been scheduled for a match at a satellite facility, then recently-built Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center, another outstanding public facility. I imagine most new tennis facilities assume the same philosophy as most home builders do when it comes to natural landscape nowadays, "Cut it down or cut it back". Other than the covered benches or huddling in your partner's shadow, you aren't going to find an ounce of shade.
I should have suspected something was up when I saw two chilled soaking tubs, a massage therapist working (relieving) someone over, water girls and boys scampering about with coolers and several players grabbing this muscle or massaging that one.
We walked to the court with our opponents - warm-up wasn't truly necessary in the most basic sense and we weren't too inclined to take the stroke and form part of it too far either. Our opponents, I believe, had been playing together for quite some time and my partner, we would pair up occasionally for a tournament.
I rarely, if ever, sit during changeover. I usually pace it, never looking too anxious, but I may assume the serve or return position for the next game early if I feel my opponent is wearing down, hoping he will feel obligated to pick up the pace a little bit.
This day, most changeovers were of typical length and within regulation until way far into the match - about right after the third game of the first set. It was high 90-something degrees and the weather people said it felt like 100-something. My brain, my psyche, my ego, something in my head, said, "Don't worry; you've done this plenty of times". My body said, "Irrelevant". It was painfully hot and you could feel your racket swimming through the moisture. Each changeover was longer than the last, almost by minutes. No one was pressuring the other to get goin', nor did anyone observe the 90-second rule, much less mention it. After several change-overs, from afar, we probably looked like our seniors, out playing on a Retirement Tuesday, discussing last night's bridge game.
I thought my partner and I brought ample drink, while our opponents looked prepared for a day at the beach. Soon they were offering us what they had - the four of us, now stranded friends lost in the desert. Out of respect, we hailed every water person we could, replenished ourselves, and their stock. Eventually, returning to court after break seemed more like obligation than desire and 90 seconds was slowly inching toward 9 minutes, which would have better suited us had it been 90 minutes. We gave the match to our opponents, perhaps in thanks for the liquid relief they so graciously afforded us.
Back at the clubhouse veranda it looked like the finish line of the Boston Marathon, only in July, in Columbia, SC. It was triage and we were the lucky few. One player was in the cooling tub, another was on the massage table and a friend's wife told me she was on her way to see her husband (tournament player) who was sent to the hospital - potential kidney failure.
During our match, I drank a jug of water, eight bottles of water and I only attempted a second beer (quite rare) afterwards. I have to go all physiological here - I did not urinate for 8 hours after the match. My body used every drop of liquid I gave it and recycled it through my pores. That was damn dangerous.
The next morning I called a friend who I knew was in the tournament, but I didn't see her there and I was not going back to the main tournament center just to see results. She is pretty much a fun-loving and mostly unflappable women who happens to have low body-fat. She sounded groggy and worried and I soon found this wasn't from a late night of drinking and some ill relationship. She told me, having plenty of time before her next match, she decided to drive into town and chill out for a while with a friend. She didn't make it. A few miles from her friends place, she started getting a few cramps, so she pulled her car into a vacant parking lot - good thing. Sitting there, calling her friend, she began realizing even more cramps. Her friend called 911 while she slithered out of her car and sat up beside it so the EMTs could more easily spot her.
The doctor performed an examination and then asked her if she had been hydrating during her match, and she had. Then, she asked her what fluids and what quantities had she consumed prior. "Very little of nothing much", was her answer. The doctor, also a tennis player and avid runner, began to explain to her, how in this heat, this type of heat, she should have been hydrating (pre-hydrating) hours before her match. At some time during her treatment (plenty of IV fluids and nutrients) of my friend, the doctor said, "I wish I could stop this tournament. I've already seen 16 patients from it today."
My friend who is quite a driven and tenacious person, seemed very worried about her prospects of playing the sport she loves so much, for a variety of reasons, ever again in the heat.
Pre-Hydrate, Hydrate and then Re-Hydrate
Tennis is a unique sport in that it is a series of sprints, bursts of energy and a great amount of varied muscular employment that can last for hours with no half-time or time-outs, with breaks just long enough to promote a sound pace for the sake of the game, not so much for the player.
As well, it also requires a rather unique diet before, during and after and this includes hydration necessary for optimum performance and to avoid dehydration and heat related injuries.
Below are some great sources for more detail information, but let's cover a few key points right here.
- Clear to light yellow color - hydrated
- Dark - under-hydrated
- Bright yellow - probably just supplements and vitamins which have low uptake and are simply going down the drain. In this case you need an isotonic supplement.