Let me give a perfunctory recap of the results of the 2014 US Open Women’s Semifinals. Caroline Wozniacki and Serena Williams won. The two close friends will battle it out on Sunday for this year’s title. What concerns me more was the situation with Peng Shuai. Initially, it looked like she was cramping. Then it appeared to be far more serious. Later, we were told it was heat illness. It was very scary, that’s for sure. And it is something that should never happen again in tennis. Down a set and a break at 6-7 3-4 but with a break point against Wozniacki’s serve, Peng Shuai drifted to the backstop hunched over. She had bent over several times during the match as if something were physically wrong. Clearly, there was something wrong. Played beneath a sweltering, unforgiving sun, cramping is common at tennis events, particularly summer hard court events like the US Open and Australian Open. This occurred one point after she took a long time to prepare to return serve at 30-30 reaching to massage her legs. If a player is cramping, as cruel as it sounds, tennis rules stipulate that a player can’t be helped during a game in progress or they suffer penalties, including possibly a default. They must wait for a changeover.
But Peng was assessed no point, game or match penalty even though Caroline was serving and that’s what the rules state. But here’s where the rules are different. Peng was taken off the court, given a medical assessment and treatment for over 10 minutes. She returned with no point penalties because they said it was heat sickness (illness). This is where I part ways with those in charge. Apparently, and understandably, she was in tears off-court when receiving treatment. But if heat sickness was the cause, and I do believe them, Peng should never have been allowed back on the court. They let her back on. She played a handful of points and then collapsed on her hands and knees on the court. She was holding her upper chest, which makes me think more than cramping was happening. Although she didn’t, she looked like she was about to vomit on court. It was clear the match was over due to retirement. It never should have come to this. I agree 100% with what Mary Carillo said. Somebody needed to make a decision for Peng Shuai. They should have done it when they diagnosed her with heat sickness. If that’s the case, you can’t give somebody an energy drink and pills…and then send them right back out to run around in the heat! When they brought out a wheelchair, she had no leg strength to help them get her into it. They had to lift her full body weight to get her into the wheelchair.
I understand Peng Shuai didn’t want to quit. I understand that in a Major semifinal, with a possible trip to her first ever Major final in the balance, they wanted to give her every chance to continue. But heat illness is not to be underestimated. They have to make the decision to stop if she is suffering from the effects of heat. They can’t send her back into the heat to keep playing. Her life is more important than a tennis match. If she had a heat stroke on court, the USTA would have a hard time explaining why they allowed her to go back out there. It’s like a concussion in football. You don’t leave it up to the player to decide whether they want to keep playing. You save them from themselves. They are fortunate nothing worse happened. I apologize for not summarizing the two semifinals matches. I am more concerned with Peng Shuai’s health and extremely disappointed and appalled with how the situation was handled.
ALL PICS CLICK TO ENLARGE