TORONTO — Some days it seems Novak Djokovic can’t take the heat; on others, he can generate solar flares by himself.
Wednesday at the Rogers Cup, the oven was turned up for the Serbian smasher, who was worried about collapsing in near 40C conditions, before destroying his tennis racquet to psyche himself and eventually beating back aggressive Frenchman Julien Benneteau, 7-5, 7-5.
“I wasn’t feeling the best, but I overcame it,” said Djokovic, the world’s second-ranked men’s singles player, who took one of his frequent ATP tour timeouts to be checked by medical personnel during the second set.
“It’s happened a couple of times (in Djokovic's career), but I’ll say it again, I will never risk my health just to win. (On Wednesday) I was really on the edge. It’s definitely not easy on the days where you have almost 30 Celsius. On court it can add up another 10 degrees and the hard court absorbs the heat.
“After a half hour or an hour, you get back to normal, but in the long term it can hurt you. Health is more important to me than tennis and success and whatever.”
Humid Toronto is hard on many players and Djokovic cited Cincinnati, Washington D.C., and Indian Wells, Calif., as other hot spots. The Wimbledon semi-finalist won the Rogers in Montreal in 2007.
“It’s something you can’t fight. Nobody can turn off the sun and do me a favour. Life goes on, I won another match, now I will gain confidence. They say fight all the way through and you are a champion, but on the other hand, if your body gives you an alarm and you push it more and more, it can hurt.
“The nervousness in the match can combine with the heat and the stress. I’m trying to balance all things in my life.”
Djokovic dropped serve four times on Wednesday but put the hammer down when needed. In one instance, that meant first beating up his racquet, perhaps not the best way for someone with his heat issues to conserve energy.
“It’s never been a problem for me to smash a racquet,” Djokovic said with a hint of pride. “I tend to have a positive reaction off of that. My head cools off after I break it, even though it looks ugly to the fans.
“In one doubles (tournament) I won, I broke one every single match. Yeah, it’s a lucky charm. My sponsor will not send me any more, he’ll charge me.”