VALDOSTA –– Day 2 of the USTA Mixed Doubles Georgia State Championships began much like the first day.
Hot. Miserably, unbearably hot.
With temperatures climbing into the mid 90s with a heat index of 109 degrees on Saturday, conditions have vacillated between tolerable and extreme for the field. In fact, courts at Harry B. Anderson Tennis Center and Valdosta State University remained unpopulated for long stretches as players tried their best to keep cool enough to play on. To combat the heat, many players have resorted to using towels, headbands and even blankets stored in ice water-filled coolers.
In the case of the matchup between Scott McRae and Bonnie Mann versus Mark Holsenbeck and Jessica Muilenburg, the heat proved too tough to tame. Following their first set, both teams retreated to a nearby cool mist tent in hopes of ease. Without much of a breeze blowing, the mist under the tents both soothed and added to the discomfort as the water had grown warm.
After going back to the court after about 10 minutes of rest, the teams were set to serve when Holsenbeck decided it would be best that his team retire from the match.
"It's unbearable," Muilenburg said. "The heat is unbearable. It's tough to play because it actually changes, in some ways, what the outcome could be. ... Our bodies are just not used to a 107 heat index."
Mann added, "I saw a player earlier today retire and he was awesome yesterday morning in the first set then he got hot and more tired and then retired yesterday."
VLPRA has placed many forms of aid around the courts at McKey Park and VSU, including an Italian Ice stand and several tents. Most notably, there are tables with coolers of water, Gatorade and bananas stationed at each site to help players stay hydrated and prevent cramping.
For players competing at VSU, the lack of abundant shade has made for uncomfortable playing conditions at times.
McRae and Mann played in the 2018 Mixed Doubles State Championships in Valdosta last year. For Mann, there's been no change in the temperature whatsoever.
"(The weather) sucks equally [laughs]," Mann said when asked about the heat compared to last year's tournament.
McRae recalls his brush with a medical emergency on the court last year and how the heat can affect a player's game after hours on the court.
"I was on the court last year dry-heaving," McRae said. "I literally could not move. The ball would hit a few feet away from me and I was standing there seeing it coming and I just looked at it and walked over.
"This year, I play a totally different game than I did last year. I'm not as active –– I'm not gonna be shuffling back and forth much at the net. You start looking for put-aways. It's pretty much, 'OK, I'm gonna hit the ball three times and then on the third time, somebody is winning this point.' ... I don't see how the pros can do this for five sets."
The USTA Mixed Doubles Georgia State Championships roll into Day 3 today and will wrap up on Monday. For the team fortunate enough to make it this far, the name of the game is simply survival.
"It's like your feet melt into the court and you really can't move," Muilenburg said of the challenges of the tournament. "It's like molasses –– it's just a different game. It's survival of the fittest out here right now."