Temperatures stayed high at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Queens, N.Y., upper 90s on the grounds and well over that on the courts. The newly rebuilt Armstrong Stadium, like Ashe Stadium, gets quite uncomfortable in these conditions because of their retractable roofs. These are marvelous feats of engineering, and of course they serve their purpose when it rains, but even when they are open, the stadia suck in and conserve heat from above and it is painful.
The authorities instituted a heat rule, you can take a ten-minute break after a couple sets to cool off, but as happens with rules and regulations, there are unintended consequences. The ump penalized a young lady (a charming little French girl named Alizé Cornet, young woman I should say, she is 28 and five eight and has beaten the best, Serena Williams, several times) for undressing on the court.
In fact, all she did was reverse her T-shirt while rushing back from the ten minute cool-off inside, which tells you how smart it is to exercise clock dogma. Pro tennis also instituted a shot clock this season. You get 25 seconds to serve, which 99 percent of the time is plenty, so are you going to penalize someone who, for one reason or another — maybe a distracting noise in the stands — goes to 28?
Miss Cornet was rushing back to beat the clock and she put on her shirt label-side in front, and quickly reversed it. French women are trained from a young age to do this sort of thing in any situation, with the fluidity of a baseball player adjusting his cap, and I am pretty sure no one outside the ump, whose job it is to see everything and still miss line calls (or what is the reason for the hawkeye camera?), noticed.
She had her sports undergarment, or bra, on, so in this day and age what is the problem? She stated that Rafa Nadal (and others) regularly change shirts right there in front of the fans. Equity, she said. Miss Cornet, who is from Nice where British tourists have been coming since the 19thcentury, speaks fluent English but she probably meant equality. The modern idea.
Mrs. Murray (the great Scot champion’s mom and a committed feminist) got on to it, as did just about everyone else. The USTA apologized, reversed the policy, you can do whatever you want. Though, tactfully (or by conservative reflex?) they added that if they wanted to the ladies could still go over there (vague) to change in private.
The tennis press asked players about it. When they got to Stefanos Tsitsipas, a hot young rising star from Greece who had just lost a tough match against a hot young rising star from Russia, Daniil Medvedev, it went thus:
Q: Did you see what happened what happened with [Alizé] Cornet yesterday and changing her shirt on the court of flipping it around [note the elegant use of English by this alleged wordsmith — ed.]. If so, what are your thoughts about her getting penalized and the USTA apologizing for it?
A: I mean, I have nothing to do with that anyway. What does it have to do with me?
I give the kid an A. But the sportswriter could not let go:
Q: Well, some have said that there is a double standard for women and for men. [note syntax —ed.], and if a man had taken his shirt off and changed on the court there wouldn’t have been a problem.
A: No comment, really. I have nothing to say about it. I think they know better.
Miss Cornet herself said she all was fine, apologies accepted, just get on with things and, she added, in France, the Federation (their USTA) should be careful about their dress code, which they just reasserted with a particular aim at the “catsuit” that Serena Williams wore at the last French Open.
As it happens, it is rather odd the way our culture gets whacky over rules intended to promote “equity” and meanwhile is mute before the clear evidence that women and men dress differently, always have. How can the rules be the same if the customs differ? And do not the customs reflect what we refer to as human nature?
The same day — it was Wednesday — Andy Murray and Fernando Verdasco played a gripping, thrilling fourth set in which the hard hitting Spaniard prevailed in extremis. Murray, a former champion here, was angry because apparently Verdasco’s coach talked to him during the ten-minute, which is forbidden. Murray got quite upset, said it was unfair and rules are rules, though he stopped short of blaming the lapse, he did not use the word cheating, for his loss. Over-regulate, you get this sort of thing, though it is peculiar one ump obsessed over a cute young lady putting on a shirt and another ump failed to enforce a clear rule where a male pro was concerned.
As Mr. Pleszczynski says, why not just go to the Coney Island when the weather gets this way and let the tournament continue in private clubs in the Hamptons, where they can do whatever they want.
Good idea. But what of the environmental regulations out there?