Extreme heat is on Down Under
On a day when shade was a valuable commodity in the searing heat at Melbourne Park, Roger Federer played it cool at the Australian Open.
Six-time champion Novak Djokovic, however, complained about Thursday’s brutal conditions during his second-round win over Gael Monfils, when the temperature peaked at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
Djokovic urged tennis organizers to be more flexible about the rules for drink breaks, time between points and suspension of play when the conditions were bordering on dangerous.
Federer, the defending champion, finished off a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) win over Jan-Lennard Struff a half-hour before midnight, when the temperature was still around 29 degrees C (84 degrees F), and said playing at the height of the heat wouldn’t have bothered him.
“I may have thrived in those conditions,” he said. “It’s definitely a challenge. It’s hard to prepare for that in some ways, but you know when you come down here that can happen.
“Sure, I’m happy I played at night time. But, like I said on court, I would back myself playing during the daytime also. Used to go to Dubai when it was 45 — 38 seems almost OK.”
Temperatures are expected to rise today, before cooling off considerably over the weekend, when Federer and Djokovic’s half of the draw is back for the third round.
Stan Wawrinka, the 2014 Australian Open champion, No. 7 David Goffin and No. 13 Sam Querrey didn’t make it through the second round. Nor did Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, one of the five seeded women’s players who were eliminated on Day 4.
That left only Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber — who will meet in the next round — and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko as Grand Slam winners in the women’s draw.
Sharapova beat 14th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova 6-1, 7-6 (4) to avenge a loss in last year’s U.S. Open, the five-time major champion’s first Grand Slam after returning from a 15-month doping ban.
Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open champion, had a 6-4, 6-1 win over Donna Vekic before the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to celebrate her 30th birthday.
Still looking for a first major after two French Open final losses, top-ranked Simona Halep held off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-2. Halep will next play Lauren Davis.
U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys opened with four straight aces and won the first 11 games in a 6-0, 6-1 win over 92nd-ranked Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, No. 8 Caroline Garcia and No. 26 Agnieszka Radwanska also advanced.
Blisters from the hot court surface didn’t help Muguruza in a 7-6 (1), 6-4 loss to 88th-ranked Hsieh Su-wei, who has been No. 1 in doubles but had a career-high ranking of 23rd in singles.
Ninth-seeded Johanna Konta also struggled in a straight-set loss to lucky loser Bernarda Pera, an American who is ranked 123rd and making her Grand Slam debut. Pera, who didn’t even know she had a spot in the main draw until another player withdrew, will next play No. 20 Barbora Strycova.