Not Dellien — the player ranked No. 139 in the world had little chance for an upset. Trying to expend as little energy as possible, Djokovic broke Dellien’s serve in the sixth and eighth games, clinching the first set in 35 minutes when he sent a nifty inside out forehand from one sideline to the other. Djokovic cruised from there, taking the second set in just 25 minutes.
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Before the first hour of play Saturday morning, the heat was on the verge of claiming its first victim. After losing the first set, 6-0, Sara Errani of Italy struggled to answer the bell in the second set. She sat for several minutes in her chair during the changeover. Trainers measured her blood pressure and covered her in towels stuffed with ice. She put her face in front of a hose that blew cold air.
“It’s very hard,” said Iga Swiatek of Poland.
Swiatek loves to play in the cool air and under the gray skies of northern Europe. She won the French Open the one time it was played in October. For many players, their last competition was at Wimbledon in London, where the weather bears little resemblance to the cauldron of Tokyo. Swiatek said she traveled to Nagasaki to acclimate before coming to Tokyo, which helped, but there is only so much a player can do. Dealing with the heat becomes yet another mind game.
“You walk out, you know it’s not going to be fun,” Medvedev said after his straight sets win over Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan. “You tell yourself you’re going to make it tough for him. You’re going to make him suffer.”
It was so hot that during her loss to Leylah Fernandez of Canada, Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska rolled her shirt into a midriff and Fabio Fognini of Italy did his post-match interviews shirtless with a towel draped around his neck.
And yet there was one player who was in her element. It turns out Maria Sakkari of Greece, perhaps the fittest player in the game who loves few things more than spending several hours in the weight room, said she would not be bothered if it was even a few clicks hotter.
“I actually really like these conditions,” Sakkari said after her straight sets win over Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. Minutes after the victory, Sakkari looked like she had just walked out of an air-conditioned room. “We grow up playing in the heat in Greece. This is normal for me. Maybe a little more humid, but I felt really good out there.”