Federer, Azarenka win as heat arrives
MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer kept his cool on a scorching hot second day at the Australian Open, starting his record 57th consecutive Grand Slam tournament with a straight-sets victory in his first competitive match in front of new coach Stefan Edberg.
Federer was the second match on Rod Laver Arena today, and the temperature topped 41 Celsius (106 Fahrenheit) during his 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Australian wild-card entry James Duckworth.
Two-time defending women's champion Victoria Azarenka played the previous match on the center court, and said it felt "like you're dancing in a frying pan."
Yet after her 7-6 (2), 6-2 win over No. 91-ranked Johanna Larsson of Sweden, Azarenka went back out to practice.
Asked how he handled the heat, the 32-year-old Federer said: "I'm here. I'm speaking. Actually, it's not crazy. I'm feeling OK."
"It was very dry, just hot, you know, stinging sort of sun," he added later. "Depending on where you come from it has a bigger effect on you, this type of heat. So it's very personal, and it can become just a very mental thing, and you just can't accept that it's hot."
He now owns the record for playing the most consecutive Grand Slam events, another milestone in a career that has already resulted in 17 major titles for the Swiss star.
He kept the points as short as possible, and only gave No. 133-ranked Duckworth one look at a break point in the 1-hour, 46-minute match.
He said it was "great fun" to finally play in front of childhood hero Edberg, whom he hired on a part-time basis last month.
"I used to watch his matches and get inspired," Federer said, then added: "He warmed me up .... I won!"
The heat at Melbourne Park topped 42 C (108F) later, and the forecast was for more high temperatures until Friday. Temperatures in nearby Avalon peaked above 45C (113F).
A hot, gusty breeze swirled across the venue all day, making conditions more challenging instead of cooler and keeping the crowds down.
Players draped bags of ice over their necks and shoulders and sat under covered seats in the changeovers across Melbourne Park. They retreated into the shade at the back of the courts between points.
Spectators covered their heads and shoulders with damp towels to cool off and queued up to stand in front of large electric fans blasting water at their faces. A ball kid was treated for heat stress during a morning match.
Some players struggled. Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic said he felt like he blacked out during a 7-6 (12), 6-4, 6-3 loss to No. 27 Benoit Paire of France. Dancevic had treatment in the second set but continued.
He was playing on Court 6, where Polona Hercog retired after one game and where No. 13 John Isner, the only seeded American man in the draw, retired after losing the first two sets 6-2, 7-6 (6) against Martin Klizan. Isner said he was bothered by a right ankle injury.
Czech veteran Radek Stepanek retired with a sore neck when he was down a break in the fourth set against Blaz Kavcic, after winning two of the first three, but said it wasn't heat-related.
No. 21 Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew before his first-round match due to a strained left hamstring. His replaced in the draw by Frenchman Stephane Robert, who beat Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-0.
Among the other men advancing were No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 11 Milos Raonic, No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 16 Kei Nishikori, who needed five sets to beat Australian Marinko Matosevic.
On the women's side, No. 8 Jelena Jankovic, No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 11 Simona Halep, No. 16 Carla Suarez Navarro and No. 29 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and American Christina McHale advanced in straight sets.
Former No. 1-ranked Wozniacki said the court was so hot in her 6-0, 6-2 win over Lourdes Dominguez Lino, which started at 11 a.m., that it seemed to melt her plastic water bottle.
In her first Grand Slam match since her New Year's Eve engagement to golfer Rory McIlroy, she did everything she could to keep cool.
"Every time in the changeovers, ice bags, ice towels, everything," Wozniacki said. "I put the bottle down on the court and it started melting a little bit underneath, the plastic, so you knew it was warm."