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Tennis star says "I can die" in the heat at Tokyo Games and another player leaves the court in a wheelchair

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A Russian tennis star said he could "die" in the suffocating heat and humidity at the Tokyo Olympics Wednesday and a Spanish player had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair because of heatstroke. Players struggled as the temperature rose to 88 degrees but the heat index made it feel like a sizzling 99 degrees.

Daniil Medvedev, who took two medical timeouts and had one visit from a trainer, was struggling so much at the Ariake Tennis Park on Wednesday that at one point the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, asked him if he could continue playing.

"I can finish the match but I can die," Medvedev, the world's number 2 men's player, replied. "If I die, are you going to be responsible?"

Tennis - Men's Singles - Round 3
Daniil Medvedev of the Russian Olympic Committee takes a medical timeout during his third round match against Fabio Fognini of Italy on July 28, 2021. MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS

Somehow, the second-seeded Medvedev still pulled out a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini of Italy to reach the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Spanish player Paula Badosa was less fortunate. She left the court in a wheelchair after retiring from her quarterfinal match against Marketa Vondrousova because of heatstroke.

Tennis - Women's Singles - Quarterfinal
Paula Badosa of Spain withdraws from her quarterfinal match against Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic on July 28, 2021.  LUCY NICHOLSON / REUTERS

Badosa also had to withdraw from a mixed doubles match later with partner Pablo Carreno Busta.

Vondrousova, the Czech player who eliminated Naomi Osaka a day earlier, had won the first set 6-3. She's now in the semifinals and into the medal rounds and will next face fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. Ninth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland will play 15th-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the other semifinal match.

The problems the players faced raised questions over why organizers did not grant requests earlier in the tournament from Medvedev and other players - including top-ranked Novak Djokovic - to move all of the tennis matches at the Games to the evening.

Afterward, Medvedev said he felt "darkness" in his eyes.

"I didn't know what to do to feel better," the ROC player added. "I was ready to just fall down on the court."

After the match, Medvedev tweeted a sweating red-faced emoji with the message: "Sill alive."

As Wednesday's play neared its conclusion, organizers announced that matches would begin at 3 p.m. starting Thursday to make it easier on the players. Matches had been starting at 11 a.m.

Djokovic was fortunate to play later in the day after Center Court was covered by shadows. The Serbian great served nine aces and defeated Spanish training partner Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 6-1 to keep his Golden Slam bid going.

"The conditions are brutal," Djokovic said. "I've played tennis professionally now 20 years and I've never faced this kind of conditions in my entire life on a consecutive daily basis."

Djokovic's quarterfinal opponent will be Kei Nishikori of Japan, who reached his third straight Olympic quarterfinal by beating Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 7-6 (7), 6-0.

Djokovic then won again with Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic in the opening round of the mixed doubles competition. They beat Marcelo Melo and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-3, 6-4.

In singles, Djokovic is attempting to become the first man to achieve a Golden Slam by winning all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.

Djokovic has already won the Australian and French Opens plus Wimbledon this year, so now he needs the Tokyo Games title and the U.S. Open trophy to complete the unique collection.

Out on Court 2, third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece was far from his best in a 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 loss to 14th-seeded Ugo Humbert of France. Also, 12th-seeded Karen Khachanov of ROC eliminated eighth-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-1, 2-6, 6-1.

"It was a battle to see who was capable to resist more. After 10 or 12 groundstrokes we were like 'The Walking Dead,'" Schwartzman said, referring to the popular TV series.

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