Daniil Medvedev said he “can die” on court as the Russian star struggled badly in oppressive conditions in Tokyo before seeing off Italy’s Fabio Fognini to reach the Olympic quarter-finals.
Frequently bending over with exhaustion before serving and requiring medical treatment several times during the match on Wednesday, Medvedev was at one point asked by umpire Carlos Ramos whether he was able to continue.
“What can I do? I’m fine. I can finish the match, but I can die,” the Russian replied, before talking about “responsibility.”
Temperatures on court rose to 31C (88F) but the heat index made them feel more like 37C (99F).
Medvedev first required treatment for an abdominal problem while leading 5-2 in the opening set, and needed another medical break when trailing 3-4 in the second.
Daniil Medvedev really struggling with illness and an abdominal injury. He’s struggling in the brutal heat/humidity.The Russian leads 6-2 3-4 pic.twitter.com/8xMJHIA5Uz
— Vansh! (@vanshv2k) July 28, 2021
Both players were allowed a 10-minute break between the second and third sets due to the extreme conditions, and Medvedev was given more treatment in the final set when a trainer came onto court to massage his left arm and thigh.
With Medvedev taking his time between serves, Fognini cut a frustrated figure on the other side of the net, slamming his racket into the ground when the match was over.
“I didn’t know what to do to feel better,” Medvedev said afterwards.
“I was ready to just fall down on the court.”
Referring to his medical timeouts, the Russian star added: “I felt like my diaphragm was blocked. I couldn’t breathe properly.
“It was the most humid day we had so far, maybe the hottest.”
Medvedev, who is competing for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team, will next face Spanish sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the last eight.
However, the scenes on Wednesday will pile more pressure on organizers regarding the conditions players are being forced to endure.
Both Medvedev and Serbian world number one Novak Djokovic have questioned why matches can’t be moved to the evenings to avoid the suffocating heat.
After defeating Kazakh rival Alexander Bublik in a grueling first-round match, Medvedev had said it was a “joke” that players were only allowed a 60-second changeover period.
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Russian star Daniil Medvedev blasts Olympics tennis tournament a ‘joke’ as players grapple with sweltering conditions in Japan
“I think the fact that we have only one minute between the changeovers is a joke… It should be 1:30 like it is in other tournaments,” Medvedev had fumed.
“But you have to play. That’s the Olympics, you go for the medal. You are not here to cry about the heat.”
After Wednesday’s scenes, fans described Medvedev’s match with Fognini as verging on a “pantomime” while also fearing for the players’ health – pointing the finger at US Olympic broadcasters NBC over the timing of events.
In a match which teetered on the brink of pantomime, Medvedev beats Fognini 6-2 3-6 6-2. Conditions were brutal.At one stage, Medvedev said to the umpire: “I can finish the match, but I can die. If I die, who will take responsibility?” (h/t @tumcarayol)#Olympics#Tokyo2020
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) July 28, 2021
I don’t know how he did it, I don’t think even he understands how he did it but, after wondering who would be responsible if he dies on the court, the amazing Daniil Medvedev wins the most ridiculous match of the year.
— Oleg S. (@AnnaK_4ever) July 28, 2021
Every time anything comes up with the heat, @NBCOlympics shud be shamed..Medvedev asked, “If i die, who will take responsibility”. Simple answer – NBC!!!#Tokyo2020
— Kapil Choudhary (@kapil857) July 28, 2021
Medvedev, 25, will now need to recover in time to face Carreno Busta, knowing that he will likely have to contend with the conditions as well as his opponent.