Big guns dodge Australian Open heat even as Del Potro makes exit
Melbourne: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray rose victorious from one of the Australian Open’s most chaotic days when a rare extreme heat shutdown and then a surprise rainstorm threw the tournament into disarray.
Roger Federer serves in his second round match against Blaz Kavcic at Melbourne Park yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
After temperatures reaching 43.4 Celsius forced organisers to take the rare step of suspending play on outside courts and closing the stadium roofs, the big trio were able to play in air-conditioned comfort.
So just hours after Maria Sharapova slogged through three sets in brutal heat on an open Rod Laver Arena, Spain’s Nadal stepped up with the roof closed to blitz world number 570 Thanasi Kokkinakis in less than two hours.
Federer, playing with Hisense Arena closed to the elements, produced a classic display as he took apart Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic in front of enraptured Melbourne crowd to reach the third round.
The day’s biggest casualty was former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, the fifth seed, who was sent crashing by Spain’s 62nd-ranked Roberto Bautista Agut.
And Murray later took apart France’s Vincent Millot, including a memorable fightback from 5-1 down in the final set, to show he remains a force to be reckoned with after back surgery.
They were three of the big winners after the four-hour heat shutdown, the first in five years, forced a hasty revision of the schedule with several matches extending past midnight.
Just as players were returning to court, a freak rain and lightning storm erupted over Melbourne Park, further delaying the action.
Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki were also glad to reach round three on a topsy-turvy day, with more in prospect on Friday when temperatures are forecast to hit 44 Celsius.
Following days of players fainting, vomiting and complaining bitterly about the heat, a suspension was finally announced at 2:00 pm.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori was one of the early players but he dispatched Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (3) to escape the heat in straight sets.
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.
A serve-volleying Federer showed distinct shades of his new coach, Stefan Edberg, as he overwhelmed Kavcic 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (4) win in one hour 47 minutes.
Key men’s second round results
Roger Federer (SUI x6) bt Blaz Kavcic (SLO) 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (4); Gael Monfils (FRA x25) bt Jack Sock (USA) 7-6 (7/2), 7-5, 6-2; Andy Murray (GBR x4) bt Vincent Millot (FRA) 6-2, 6-2, 7-5; Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) bt Juan Martin del Potro (ARG x5) 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5; Gilles Simon (FRA x18) bt Marin Cilic (CRO) 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2