A tale of two situations at Melbourne Park

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 16, 2014 at 8:37 am •  Published: January 16, 2014
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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Maria Sharapova toiled in 43-degree Celsius (109 F) temperatures for more than 3 1/2 hours on Rod Laver Arena and could count herself among the unlucky early starters at the oppressively hot Australian Open on Thursday.

After organizers finally decided to suspend matches due to extreme temperatures in a heat wave gripping southeastern Australia, late lighting and rain caused further delays on day four.

Caroline Wozniacki highlighted the unpredictable Melbourne weather, describing the conditions as "pleasant" when she played on Rod Laver Arena immediately after Sharapova. And comparatively, it was. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer also enjoyed the milder temperatures when they played evening matches indoors.

The roof at Rod Laver Arena re-opened when weather conditions improved, and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray won the last 23 points in the featured night match to come back from 5-1 down in the third set and beat French qualifier Vincent Millot 6-2, 6-2, 7-5.

"It was 6-5 when I went to serve for it, and someone shouted out, 'You won 19 in a row'," Murray said. "I would say that's probably the most I'd ever won in my career by far. I don't really know how I did it."

In the biggest upset so far at the tournament, No. 5-seeded Juan Martin del Potro ended a long day at Melbourne Park by losing his second-round match 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 to Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut. The 3-hour, 53-minute match finished at 1:20 a.m. Friday, more than 14 hours after play began on day four.

Earlier, organizers invoked their 'Extreme Heat Policy' and the roofs on the two main arenas were closed in the afternoon. Matches on outside courts, meanwhile, were suspended for more than four hours until temperatures dropped.

Problems with the weather didn't end there — thunderstorms, lightning and rain showers hit during the early evening, forcing another suspension of play for matches on the outer courts.

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka was spared, playing indoors when she beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1, 6-4.

Her main rival on the bottom half of the draw had to endure the harshest conditions of the day.

The temperature was 39 C (102 F) when Sharapova's match against No. 44-ranked Karin Knapp started just after 11 a.m. local time. It increased to almost 43 C by the time she finished off a 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 win on her fourth match point, 50 minutes after her first. It was the longest women's match so far in the tournament.

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