Victoria Azarenka successfully began her bid for a third straight Australian Open tennis title and four-time champion Roger Federer also won as extreme heat enveloped the season’s first Grand Slam tournament.
Men’s fourth seed Andy Murray of the U.K. and No. 5 Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina advanced to the second round. John Isner, at No. 13 the only seeded American man in the tournament, was two sets down today when an ankle injury forced him to concede his match against Slovakia’s Martin Klizan.
Temperatures of more than 100 degrees (38 Celsius) and swirling winds descended upon Melbourne. The heat wave is expected to last for three more days, with thermometers going as high as 109 degrees, forecasters said.
“I put the bottle down on the court and it started melting a little bit underneath, the plastic, so you knew it was warm,” Caroline Wozniacki told reporters after a first-round win.
Azarenka, from Belarus, is seeded second this year in Melbourne behind five-time champion Serena Williams of the U.S., who won her opening-round match last night.
Azarenka, 24, has not won any of the three other Grand Slam tennis titles, though she has lost in the U.S. Open final to Williams the past two years. She had no aces and seven double faults in her 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 win against 90th-ranked Johanna Larsson of Sweden.
“It felt pretty hot, like you’re dancing in a frying pan or something like that,” Azarenka said.
Also winning first-round women’s matches today were No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, No. 10 Wozniacki of Denmark and No. 11 Simona Halep of Romania. Wozniacki said winning in 67 minutes allowed her to avoid the worst of the heat.
“It was important for me to just close it out as quick as possible,” she said in a news conference. “I went to get an ice bath after my match.”
The temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit and wind was swirling on the court at 29 miles per hour (47 kilometers per hour) when Federer began his first-round match with Australia’s James Duckworth in the early afternoon.
By the time the sixth-seeded Swiss player had finished off a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory one hour, 46 minutes later, the temperature was up to 105 degrees.
“It can become just a very mental thing, and you just can’t accept that it’s hot,” Federer told reporters. “If you can’t deal with it, you throw in the towel.”
Murray, playing his first Grand Slam match since back surgery in late September, won 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 against Go Soeda of Japan. Del Potro was a 6-7 (1-7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 winner against American Rhyne Williams, who served 29 aces.
Men’s top seed Rafael Nadal of Spain is scheduled to play his first-round match tonight.
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