MELBOURNE, Australia -- While you were sleeping, here’s what you missed on Day 4 of the Australian Open.
"Extreme Heat" finally hits Melbourne Park: Court temperatures reached upwards of 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the tournament finally instituted its Extreme Heat Policy, which called for suspension of play and roof closures on Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena. That didn't exactly help the players who had to play in 107-degree temperatures in the early afternoon, including Maria Sharapova, who toiled for more than 40 minutes after the heat policy was put in place because the roof couldn't be closed until the set in progress was completed. The tournament's handling of the heat continued to come under fire from players, who became more vocal about their displeasure of being forced to play in such conditions. Oh, and to top it all off, play was suspended in the evening for lightning and rain. Welcome to Australia.
Sharapova didn't thrive, but she survived: This should have been a routine win for Sharapova, who was up a set and a break on No. 44 Karin Knapp before her return of serve and serve itself completely abandoned her. Knapp was up for the challenge, coming back to steal the second set and then breaking Sharapova when she served for the match in the third set. Sharapova finally came through with a 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 victory in three hours and 28 minutes. She's elated with her fight, but no doubt she has to be concerned with how quickly her game fell apart as the match progressed. She's dead meat if she double-faults 12 times again in this tournament.
Juan Martin del Potro upset on dramatic night: Three five-set men's matches stretched into Friday morning in Melbourne, including Roberto Bautista Agut's 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 victory over the fifth-seeded del Potro. Bautista Agut, a 25-year-old Spaniard ranked No. 62, advanced to the third round of a Slam for the first time. Del Potro pounded 28 aces but was broken at 5-all in the fifth set en route to his third early-round loss in his last four Australian Opens. The Argentine had been in line to face Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Sloane Stephens comes back from the brink: Stephens dropped the first set to Ajla Tomljanovic, 20, a big-hitting Croatian who trains at the Evert Academy in Florida under new coach David Taylor, but rebounded to force a third set and and raced to a 3-0 lead when lightning and rain led to a suspension. When play resumed, she lost four straight games and Tomljanovic served for the match at 5-3. On the brink of a loss, Stephens played an incredible return game and reeled off the last four games of the match with some of her best play of the tournament. Huge win. Great to see that fight from Stephens.
Donald Young joins Sam Querrey in the third round: Young upset No. 24 Andreas Seppi 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 to make the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2011 U.S. Open. Who would have thought that the last Americans standing in the men's draw would be Young and Sam Querrey, two players who have had a disastrous couple of years? This is a nice turnaround for them.
Business as usual for most of the top dogs: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal cruised into the third round with straight-set wins. Federer dispatched Blaz Kavcic 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (4) and avoided the heat on Hisense Arena when the Extreme Heat Policy turned it into an indoor arena. Nadal defeated 17-year-old Australian wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. Victoria Azarenka blew past Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1, 6-4, and Agnieszka Radwanska beat Olga Govortsova 6-0, 7-5.
Photo of the day
Death stare of the day
In the midst of 106-degree heat, Sharapova was issued a time violation serving at 4-3 in the third set. Without words, she let the umpire know how she felt about that.
Eye roll of the day
Again, Sharapova, at the mention of said time violation during her press conference.
Breakthrough of the day
Ajla Tomljanovic. She played 1.4 sets of top-10 tennis -- huge serve, power on both sides and pretty good movement. Think a right-handed Petra Kvitova who doesn't miss as much. In fact, for those 1.4 sets, she barely missed at all. Unfortunately for her, Sloane Stephens played 1.6 sets of top-10 tennis.
Video of the day
Courtesy of Federer's insane skillz:
Quote of the day
"We evolved on the high plains of Africa chasing antelope for eight hours under these conditions. There will be some players who complain and no-one is saying it is terribly comfortable to play out there but from a medical perspective we know that man is well adapted to exercising in the heat. Whether it is humane or not is a whole other issue."
-- Australian Open chief medical officer Tim Wood.
Tweets of the day
My #ausopen dark horse Pospisil withdraws with back injury. Note he was not beaten and I didn't go for a soft pick like Del Potro!
— Richard Hinds (@rdhinds) January 16, 2014
After the match I couldn't stand up for 4 hours! Sunstroke, headache, upset stomach, shiver and sickness! Not enough?!! #AusOpen — Galina Voskoboeva (@g_voskoboeva) January 16, 2014
Unbelievable.Almost had a heat stroke today.Just to find out that I'm first match on tomorrow in doubles.I hope i don't faint tomorrow!
— Varvara Lepchenko (@Varunchik1) January 16, 2014
Stanley can come out and support Benoit now. Might be his only fan in MCA. #kyrgios #paire #aussies
— Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) January 16, 2014
Jesus Christ what is this weather ☀️☔️ #mothernaturepullyourselftogetherwoman
— Donna Vekic (@DonnaVekic) January 16, 2014
This is coming our way over the MCG towards the @AustralianOpen. #lightning #ESPNAO pic.twitter.com/rJwICedI76
— Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) January 16, 2014
Maria Sharapova is 20 minutes late for her press conference. She had better have a darn good reason for that! #tripleicebath
— Tom Perrotta (@TomPerrotta) January 16, 2014
Camila Giorgi has struck 70 errors in her match so far against Cornet. That's one for every loan she hasn't repaid. #AusOpen — Benjamin Snyder (@WriterSnyder) January 16, 2014