Maria Sharapova outlasted Italy’s Karin Knapp in three long sets on a third straight day of scorching heat that interrupted play on most courts for more than four hours at the Australian Open tennis tournament.
Four-time champion Roger Federer, playing later in the day in the air-conditioned Hisense Arena, didn’t have to sweat much while eliminating Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4). Men’s top seed Rafael Nadal also won in straight sets.
Melbourne temperatures rose to 107 degrees (42 Celsius) during Sharapova’s 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 win against the unseeded Knapp in a second-round match that lasted three hours, 28 minutes.
“There is no way getting around the fact that the conditions were extremely difficult, and have been for the last few days,” Sharapova said in a news conference.
Though there is a retractable roof at Rod Laver Arena, where Sharapova played Knapp, it could not be closed when the tournament imposed its extreme heat policy because the third set had already begun. Tournament rules ban heat-related movement of the roof during a set.
The heat stopped play on all but two courts at the season’s first Grand Slam tournament. Play resumed at Rod Laver Arena after the Sharapova-Knapp match and also continued at Hisense. Those are the only two courts with roofs, as well as air conditioning, at the Australian Open.
Tournament director Craig Tiley said he suspended play until the worst of the afternoon heat -- which hit 109 at one point -- had faded.
“It is in the interests of everyone, including the fans, to invoke that policy,” Tiley said in a televised interview. “It’s a decision around the players, but it’s also a decision around everyone’s comfort.”
Forecasters said temperatures will again top 100 degrees tomorrow before dropping significantly the following day.
“People will probably need sweaters on the weekend,” Tiley said.
The final set in the Sharapova-Knapp match lasted 115 minutes. Sharapova struggled with her serve, ending with 12 double faults, including eight in the final set.
Sharapova, 26, a Russian who was the 2008 Australian Open champion, is the third seed this year behind five-time champion Serena Williams of the U.S. and second-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who is seeking her third straight title in Melbourne.
After the roof was closed at Rod Laver Arena, No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark won 6-0, 1-6, 6-2 against Christina McHale of the U.S. Also advancing to the women’s third round were No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and No. 11 Simona Halep of Romania.
Federer, a four-time Australian Open champion from Switzerland who is seeded sixth this year, had 11 aces and 52 winners in an efficient win against 99th-ranked Kavcic.
Nadal, from Spain, was a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 winner in the air conditioning at Rod Laver Arena against 17-year-old Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis.
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