The U.S. Open is very different this year because of health protocols and for world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas, the difficulty in getting regular access to his towel is proving quite a challenge.
The Greek stormed into the second round with a three-set victory over Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Monday and spent his entire post-match news conference discussing his relationship with the humble towel.
“It has huge importance, the towel. I use it very often. It gives me time to think, gives me time to refresh myself and think about my tactics,” he said.
“I have sort of a history with the towel. I used to have a towel when I was three, four years old and I would always carry it around. It was like my toy, basically. The towel resembles something special in my life.
“And also it’s not very comfortable playing all sweaty and having sweat drip from your face and get to your eyes.”
Health protocols put in place at Flushing Meadows this year forbid ballkids from handing players their towels between points, as they usually would at most elite tour events.
At the Western & Southern Open last week, which observed the same protocols, umpires delayed starting the 25-second countdown clock before a point to allow players to get back to their seats and have a quick wipe up.
That was not continued at Flushing Meadows, which led to world number one Novak Djokovic having a testy exchange with the umpire in his first-round victory over Damir Dzumhur.
“I was not aware of it. No one really brought it to my attention,” the Serbian, who last week announced he would be part of a new players’ association, said in response to the rule tweak.
“That’s something that really upset me. That’s something that I found just not acceptable, not fair. But I guess I have to deal with it.”