Red dust and rain yesterday gave some of the blue courts at the Australian Open a more Roland Garros hue, adding yet another freakish element to the conditions that have plagued the season’s first Grand Slam.
Rain on three of the first four days of the tournament has caused disruptions for players and organizers, little more than a week after smoke from bushfires caused air quality in Melbourne to be ranked among the worst in the world.
Play was yesterday delayed on outside courts by showers and what a weather expert called “dirty rain” that left damp red dust covering some courts, forced the closure of some public pools and turned the Yarra River a deep, murky brown.
In the three courts with retractable roofs, it was business as usual.
Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev needed a medical time-out for a nosebleed before beating Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 and advancing to the third round.
In the next match on Margaret Court Arena, 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber beat Priscilla Hon 6-3, 6-2 to complete a day-session schedule that started with sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic’s 7-5, 7-5 win over 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
On Rod Laver Arena, second-seeded Karolina Pliskova, a semi-finalist in Melbourne last year, advanced with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Laura Siegemund following two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza’s 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Ajla Tomljanovic.
Medvedev, last year’s US Open runner-up, was leading 5-0 in the second set when he called the trainer to help stem the blood from his nose.
He said that it happens to him sometimes, he was not bothered too much and confirmed that it was not related to tension.
“No, no, not at all. If it would be, I would be bleeding every match I play,” Medvedev said, smiling.
Shifting from outdoor conditions to indoors helped him against Martinez, he said.
“Yeah, of course it changes a lot, even like it was gray when we stepped on the court. We just played one game on the, let’s say, outdoor court,” Medvedev said. “As soon as the roof is closed, everything is different. It gets more hot, more humid inside. The ball goes faster. I think the sound of the ball even is different. So everything is completely different.”
“Today, I think it was in my advantage. Sometimes can be in your disadvantage,” he added.
Bencic said that she was happy to get her match done early.
“I didn’t know the courts were, like, wet and dirty and all that,” Bencic said. “But for sure it was difficult today. It was sometimes sunny and then suddenly was almost raining. Then windy. Yeah, you just kind of have to accept it and go with it and try your best.”
Melbourne Park staff used high-pressure hoses to clean court surfaces. Light rain became heavy, forcing the suspension of play on outside courts until the sun came out in the mid-afternoon.
Among the big winners was CiCi Bellis, the 20-year-old Californian who is ranked 600th following four surgeries on her arm. Bellis upset 20th-seeded Karolina Muchova.
Donna Vekic, seeded 19th, beat Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-2 and Zarina Diyas rallied from a set down to defeat Anna Blinkova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
On the men’s side, Ernests Gulbis held off Aljaz Bedene 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.
In the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Wu Fang-hsien and Lee Ya-hsuan fell to a 6-4, 6-3 defeat to American 16th seeds Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
In the men’s doubles, Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun and Hsieh Cheng-peng won the first set, but were unable to maintain the lead in their 6-7 (9/11), 6-4, 6-4 loss to Americans Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson.
Organizers were again forced to postpone matches because of the weather, rescheduling seven women’s and six men’s first-round doubles matches for today.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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