Friends and rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both won concurrent straight-set matches Thursday to advance to the third round at the Australian Open.
With heat forcing the closure of both the Laver and Hisense roofs and luck playing a role, Federer and Nadal began their match at roughly the same time, a rare treat for tennis fans.
Playing his first contest on Hisense in 10 years, Federer won his 70th career match at the tournament which he has claimed four times before with a 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 victory over Blaz Kavcic.
The Swiss who made the third set tougher than it needed to be, was again under the watch of new coach Stefan Edberg.
“I’m happy on a hot day like this,” said Federer. “It was a good first two sets I thought. I played really aggressive and it worked out. Third set I think he was more consistent. He served better. In the process, it got closer. I’m happy I got it done in three.
“It was nice, I enjoyed [playing on Hisense]. It’s not really different to Rod Laver Arena. Just dimensions feel the same. I don’t feel like you need to make an adjustment. The crowds were really nice. Great atmosphere over there. I was happy playing there.”
Federer will now face Teymuraz Gabashvili on Saturday after the Russian upended Fernando Verdasco in five sets.
Keeping pace was Nadal who blitzed 17-year-old Australian hope Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.
“He will have the chance to be a great player,” said Nadal of the 2013 junior Australian runner-up. “That’s my feeling. He has everything to do it. He played two junior finals at Grand Slams last year, so he has a great future. He has the right level to try to be on the tour very soon. So just keep working and that will happen.”
Kokkinakis added, “Physically I think is probably the biggest thing that needs to improve. That’s pretty much the thing I see. Just physically he’s a beast. I’ve obviously got a ways to go to get that strong and fit.”
Before the Extreme Heat Policy went into effect around 2pm, Maria Sharapova beat the sweltering 107F+ conditions and her opponent Karin Knapp 6-4, 4-6, 10-8 in 3 hours, 28 minutes, the longest women’s match of the tournament.
“There’s no way of getting around the fact that the conditions were extremely difficult, and have been like that the last few days,” Sharapova said. “But you’re really just trying to get through the match in the best possible way. No matter how you’re playing, you’re trying to make it as safe as possible.
“I’m really happy to get through today. I really am. I worked really hard in the last few months and I wanted this match. I didn’t play my best tennis; I didn’t do many things well. But I got through it.”
Play was then suspended on the outer courts for a period of four hours until 6pm. Before then, former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was able to put away American Christina McHale 6-1, 1-6, 6-2. Aga Radwanska also advanced as did former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Once the temps cooled the day was then interrupted by a 90 minute rain delay. Finally, after some scattershot play, matches continued.
2013 semifinalist Sloane Stephens shook off Ajla Tomljanovic 3-6, 6-2, 7-5. Stephens won seven games in a row from 36 22 to build a 36 62 30 lead, then the rain fell and Tomljanovic won five games in a row upon resumption, but then Stephens won four games to end it.
“I think it was scary, because we were playing through the lightning when it was like 2-0, or the 1-0 game,” Stephens said. “It was lightning like crazy ridiculous. It was intense. Like that’s the worst thing, to be outside when it’s lightning, or to be in the middle of the ocean like by yourself.”
Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka toughed out a second set to beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1, 6-4.
Andy Murray followed the Belarussian by winning the last 23 points to erase a 5-1 deficit to beat Vincent Millot 6-2, 6-2, 7-5.
Seen on crutches a week ago, Gilles S imon won his second straight 5-set match, the latest over Marin Cilic.
In the big surprise of the day Juan Martin del Potro was dumped well after 1am by Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5 in the fifth set. That leaves Milos Raonic as the highest seed remaining the that section.
And in the final match of the day, Frenchman Benoit Paire overcame a two set deficit to beat the cramping 18-year-old Nick Kyrgios 6-7, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
Despite the losses, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis both showed that Australia has a very, very bright future in men’s tennis.
The third round begins on Friday with top favorites Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic.
FRIDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 am Start Time
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK)
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) vs. David Ferrer (ESP)
Not Before: 2.00pm
Jie Zheng (CHN) vs. Casey Dellacqua (AUS)
Rod Laver Arena 7:00 pm Start Time
Samantha Stosur (AUS) vs. Ana Ivanovic (SRB)
Denis Istomin (UZB) vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Hisense Arena 11:00 am Start Time
Angelique Kerber (GER) vs. Alison Riske (USA)
Na Li (CHN) vs. Lucie Safarova (CZE)
Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs. Damir Dzumhur (BIH)
Hisense Arena 7:00 pm Start Time
Tommy Robredo (ESP) vs. Richard Gasquet (FRA)
Also Check Out:
Roger Federer: The Heat Is A Mental Thing, If You Can’t Deal With It, You Throw In The Towel
Sharapova Hungry for Pasta, Wins at WTA Warsaw
Australian Open Women’s Preview: Will Serena Win A Sixth Australian Open?
Andy Roddick: It’s Funny The Most Prepared Players Don’t Keel Over In the Heat!
Australian Open Preview: Nadal Gets Tomic In Loaded Top Half With Federer