MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The heat wave didn't claim any major casualties at the Australian Open. Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams extended their winning streaks to move into the fourth round, and all except one of the leading contenders made it through to the weekend.
Five-time champion Williams saw off the worst of the searing, once-in-a-century conditions that scorched Melbourne for four straight days, beating Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-3 on Friday.
Melbourne Park didn't quite reach the forecast peak of 44 Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) — it did get to 43 C (109 F) — that had some players complaining about "inhumane" conditions.
Williams has never been one to be seriously affected by the heat, but even she had to admit she was looking forward to the cooler conditions expected from Saturday. She also admitted to a little bit of relief after an injury to her sister, Venus, meant they had to withdraw from the doubles.
Djokovic used to struggle in the heat, but has grown accustomed to it with three consecutive Australian titles. He's aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win four in a row, and thinks he's getting there.
He benefited from the cool change that swept in late Friday before his 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 win over Denis Istomin. He wrapped it up at 12:10 a.m., and thanked the crowd — including new coach Boris Becker — for staying past midnight.
The only time he was broken was serving for the match — he was clearly irritated but quickly recovered and finished it off two games later.
"As the tournament progresses, I play better and better," Djokovic said.
He has won 24 consecutive matches at Melbourne Park. It's not in the league of Roger Federer's reign at Wimbledon, but he is in contention to be the first man in the Open era to win four consecutive Australian titles.
"Well, if I can compare myself to Roger's success in Wimbledon, that's definitely a compliment," he said. "There's still a lot more years to come from me, a lot more to prove.
"This is definitely one of my ...best Grand Slams by far. Results are showing that."
Djokovic's overall winning streak stands at 27 matches — he hasn't lost since the U.S. Open final last September, when he was beaten by a resurgent Rafael Nadal. He subsequently lost his No. 1 ranking to Nadal, despite winning four straight tournaments at the end of 2013.
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