Maria Sharapova survived a punishing match against Karin Knapp on another baking day at the Australian Open. As temperatures exceeded 110ºF for the third day, play was suspended on the outside courts for four hours – with British doubles player Jamie Murray needing treatment for heatstroke.
On the Rod Laver arena, Sharapova was made to work for her win, eventually overcoming her Italian opponent 6-3 4-6 10-8. That long final set may come back to haunt the Russian later in the tournament, given the exertion required to move into the next round.
Sharapova, speaking after her three and a half hour marathon against Knapp called for changes to be made when playing in such high temperatures
“I think in the third set for the women and the fifth set for the men, if you know that there is no tie-breaker, officials can’t just rely on ‘maybe the set will go fast and the set will be over and we will be off court’, because we have no tie-breaker in that last set.”
Rafael Nadal also moved into the next round, beating Australian teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis – at 570 the lowest ranked player in the tournament – in straight sets 6-2 6-4 6-2. Nadal will face 25 seed Gael Monfils in the next round.
Sixth seed Roger Federer is also through to the next round after beating Blaz Kavcic 6-2 6-1 7-6, and the Swiss will face one of Spain’s Fernando Verdasco or Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Australian Open chief medial officer Dr Tim Wood defended having players play long matches in the heat:
“There will be some players who complain about the heat and no-one is saying it’s terribly comfortable to play out there in these conditions but from a medical perspective we know that man is well adapted to exercising in the heat. If you take us back a few thousand years we evolved on the high plains of Africa chasing antelope for eight hours under these conditions.”
Tags: Australian Open