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Question of Day: Tennis in the Elements

Friday, April 19, 2013 /by
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TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.

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I’ve always been interested in weather phenomena surrounding sports, especially their effects on competitions. What comes to mind when you think about this in tennis?—Tom B.

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Interesting, Tom. No doubt you’d agree that weather is the ultimate x factor in sports. It’s a variable that acts indiscriminately, playing favorites only in the sense that it reveals those athletes with, or exposes those without, the wherewithal to make adjustments. You only have to think back to last year’s blustery U.S. Open semifinal between Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray. After a morning full of rain, the wind picked up, and Berdych, as he admitted afterwards, couldn’t cope. His high toss became a liability, both technically and psychically.

Then there’s just the weird. I imagine most sports fans carry, somewhere in our minds, a repository of bizarre sports-weather lore. Most of mine grows out of stories told to me by my father, a Philadelphia native. I think about Eagles fans, in 1968, pelting Santa Claus with snowballs at half time. Also the Flyers losing their arena, in 1978, when high winds took apart the roof of the Spectrum. And finally, on an extremely windy day in 1976, there’s Mark Edmondson, ranked just No. 212 in the world, upsetting defending champion John Newcombe for the Aussie Open title.

For many, Edmondson’s victory remains the biggest upset since the inception of the ATP rankings, in 1973. (Edmondson was ranked so low, the story goes, that he had only months earlier taken a job as a janitor to fund his travels.) But surely, Ed. v. Newk. is also up there in terms of adverse weather conditions. As Randy Walker tells it, in his book On This Day in Tennis History, the players couldn’t take the court until half an hour after the scheduled start time, because of “45 mile-per-hour wind gusts and a temperature drop ‘from 104 degrees to 79 in five minutes.’” High winds persisted throughout the match until Edmondson sealed the win, becoming, to this day, the last Australian to win his native tournament.

Any weather-related memories of your own? Draft out a comment, and share them with us below.

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