Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer dodged the Australian Open’s first extreme heat shutdown in five years yesterday as they stormed into the third round in air-conditioned comfort.
After severe temperatures forced organizers to take the rare step of suspending play and closing the stadium roofs, the timing could not have been sweeter for the long-time rivals.
Just hours after Maria Sharapova slugged through three sets in brutal heat on an open Rod Laver Arena, Spain’s Nadal stepped up with the roof closed to blitz world No. 570 Thanasi Kokkinakis in less than two hours.
And Swiss Federer, playing simultaneously in a closed and air-conditioned Hisense Arena, produced a classic display as he took apart Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic in front of an enraptured Melbourne crowd.
It was an armchair ride for the marquee duo, with five Australian Open titles between them, on a day when temperatures peaked at 43.4?C. Following days of players fainting, vomiting and complaining about the heat, a suspension was finally announced at 2pm and the full schedule did not resume until 6pm.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori was one of the early players, but he dispatched Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (7/3) to escape the heat in straight sets.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made heavy weather of his first set against Brazil’s Thomaz Belluci, which was played in the blazing sun, but he steamed through the rest of the match after the Hisense Arena roof rolled shut.
World No. 3 Sharapova was not so lucky after the suspension was announced during her third set against Italy’s Karin Knapp, meaning she could not leave the court until the match was over. The set went to 10-8, lasting nearly two hours, before the Russian won 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.
Top seed Nadal admitted he was “very glad” to play under the stadium roof after his campaign accelerated with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory against willing, but outgunned local hope Kokkinakis.
“I think I played a great first set. The second set, I was serving well, but I made a few mistakes,” he said. “In the third set I played well, especially down the line with a few winners so that was a positive way to end the match.”
A serve-volleying Federer showed distinct shades of his new coach, Stefan Edberg, as he overwhelmed Kavcic 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) win in one hour 47 minutes.
“It would be nice if I can take some good things away from that as well. Stefan was probably one of the greatest of all time in terms of serve and volley,” said Federer, seeded six. “He moved so smoothly and he did it so well and he did it for his entire career at the highest of levels.”
Title-holder Victoria Azarenka swept into the third round with a straight-sets mauling of Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
The two-time champion was rarely threatened on Rod Laver Arena to blast past the Czech 6-1, 6-4 in 88 minutes.
The Belarussian benefited from the roof being shut on center court because of searing heat.
Elsewhere, 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki, newly engaged to golfer Rory McIlroy, said she believed she could win her first major title after a hot-and-cold 6-0, 1-6, 6-2 win over the US’ Christina McHale.
Polish fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska was another of the senior women’s players to go through, beating Olga Govortsova 6-0, 7-5.
Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun lost to Bulgaria’s Gregor Dimitrov 6-3,6-3,7-6 (11/9) in the men’s singles.