Williams, Djokovic Advance at Australian Open Amid Searing Heat

Five-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, winner of the past three titles, reached the tennis tournament’s third round as temperatures soared for the second straight afternoon.

Djokovic, the men’s No. 2 seed, defeated Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in three sets yesterday. Top-seeded Williams, 32, who won in Melbourne in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010, had 10 aces while beating 104th-ranked Vesna Dolonc of Serbia 6-1, 6-2 in 63 minutes. The temperature rose above 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41.1 Celsius) in Melbourne.

“You just try to get a bunch of aces and a bunch of winners, because it’s too hot to get into rallies,” Williams said in a televised interview. “I think it’s going to get worse as the day goes along, so I was fortunate to play early.”

No. 3 David Ferrer of Spain, No. 7 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland and No. 9 Richard Gasquet of France also advanced on day three of the tournament.

A day earlier, two players and a ball-boy received medical treatment as the temperature reached 108 degrees. Canada’s Frank Dancevic described the organizers’ decision to allow play as “inhumane.”

The tournament tied the record for the most retirements in a single round at a Grand Slam event since tennis went professional in 1968. Eight men and one woman quit their first-round matches in Melbourne, organizers said. The opening round of the 2011 U.S. Open also saw nine withdrawals, as did last year’s second round at Wimbledon.

Today’s Matches

Today, top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain takes on Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, a player ranked 569 places below him. Roger Federer, the record 17-time Grand Slam champion from Switzerland, faces Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic while No. 4 Andy Murray of Britain, a three-time finalist, plays France’s Vincent Millot.

Defending women’s champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus is up against Czech player Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, and third-seed Maria Sharapova of Russia takes on Italian Karin Knapp.

Yesterday’s temperature peaked at 106.7 at 2:01 p.m., organizers said. The heat is forecast to continue for two more days, reaching 108 tomorrow before dropping by 40 degrees the following day.

“The last thing I want to do is to cramp in this weather,” Williams said in a news conference. “It can happen so easy. Just drinking a tremendous amount of water.”

Williams, who tied Margaret Court’s record of 60 Australian Open wins in the professional era, is seeking her 18th Grand Slam singles title, which would tie her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

China’s Li Na, a two-time finalist in Melbourne and the fourth seed this year, preceded Williams on the Rod Laver Arena and won 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.

Djokovic’s Win

Djokovic followed Williams on the main court, and never faced a break point in his 6-0, 6-4, 6-4 win against Mayer. Djokovic, from Serbia, had only 11 unforced errors in the match and said he tried not to be distracted by the extreme heat.

“It’s not just physically,” he told reporters. “Mentally you need to be tough enough to not give up and not think about what conditions can do to you.”

Berdych and Gasquet also won in straight sets. Ferrer needed four sets to get past Adrian Mannarino of France. American Sam Querrey advanced by defeating No. 23 Ernests Gulbis of Latvia in straight sets.

In the night matches, Wawrinka beat Alejandro Falla of Colombia in four sets, and Australia’s Sam Stosur, the women’s 17th seed, lost only two games while beating Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova. American Madison Keys was defeated by China’s Zheng Jie in three sets.

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