• Australian Open

Sharapova survives scare, Azarenka progresses

ESPN staff
January 16, 2014
Sharapova and Wozniacki through

Maria Sharapova battled through the extreme heat and past Karin Knapp to reach the third round of the Australian Open, surviving an epic encounter to win 6-3 4-6 10-8.

The four-time grand slam champion squandered three match points in the deciding set, but was still able to come through as temperatures reached close to 43°C in the encounter which lasted three hours and 28 minutes.

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The final set lasted an hour and 55 minutes, and with play being suspended on the outer courts due to the conditions, the extreme heat policy was brought in for Sharapova's match and other encounters, with organisers allowing women's matches to have an extended break after the second set and players to wear iced vests during the intervals. The retractable roof on the Rod Laver Arena however was not closed as they had already started the final set, with rules saying the set must be finished in order for anything to happen.

"It was tough for both of us," Sharapova said. "We fought as hard as we could. Quite honestly, she played some of the best tennis I've ever seen her play. I think you just get numb to [the heat], it just doesn't faze you anymore. I'm happy - these are the matches that you work for.

"There is no way of getting around the fact that the conditions were extremely difficult, and have been for the last few days. No-one actually knows what that number is in comparison to humidity or the actual heat. I asked the trainer the other day what it takes for the roof to be closed or matches to be stopped, and she said 'we have no control over this'."

Two-time and defending champion Victoria Azarenka was given a tough time by Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, but the world No. 2 was able to win in straight sets 6-1 6-4.

After stamping her authority in the opening set, Azarenka slightly lost control in the second as she squandered a break. But after Zahlavova Strycova twice hit back to recover, it was the break in the ninth game from Azarenka which was the vital one as Azarenka closed out victory on her serve.

Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki reached the third round with a 6-0 1-6 6-2 win over Christina McHale, with the extreme heat policy forcing the retractable roof to be closed on Rod Laver Arena.

"I started off really well, I was very aggressive in the first set … she stepped it up a little bit [in the second set]," Wozniacki said. "In the third set i just tried to fight for every point … I think my fighting spirit today pulled me through."

Agnieszka Radwanska, who has reached the quarter-finals four times at the Australian Open, including the past three years, defeated Olga Govortsova 6-0 7-5. There were also wins for Sloane Stephens and former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, who defeated Ajla Tomljanovic and Ayumi Morita respectively.

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