Friday, December 19, 2014

Djokovic, Serena cruising along

MELBOURNE, Australia—The heat wave didn’t claim any major casualties at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams extended their winning streaks to move into the fourth round, and all but one of the leading contenders made it through to the weekend.

Five-time champion Williams saw the worst of the searing, once-in-a-century conditions that scorched Melbourne for four-straight days, beating Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-3 today.
Melbourne Park didn’t quite reach the forecast peak of 44 C (111 F)— it did get to 43 C (109 F)—that had some players complaining about “inhumane” conditions.
Williams has never been one to be seriously affected by the heat, but even she had to admit she was looking forward to the cooler conditions expected starting tomorrow.
She also admitted to a little bit of relief after an injury to her sister, Venus, meant they had to withdraw from the women’s doubles competition.
Djokovic used to struggle in the heat, but has grown accustomed to it with three-consecutive Australian titles.
He’s aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win four in a row, and thinks he’s getting there.
He benefited from the cool change that swept in late today before his 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 win over Denis Istomin.
He wrapped it up at 12:10 a.m. and thanked the crowd, including new coach Boris Becker, for staying past midnight.
The only time he was broken was serving for the match—he was clearly irritated but quickly recovered and finished it off two games later.
“As the tournament progresses, I play better and better,” Djokovic noted.
The other active major winners either are on the opposite side of the draw—Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Roger Federer play their third-round matches tomorrow—or out of the competition.
No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champ, was the biggest casualty of the second round.
Of the contenders on Djokovic’s side, third-seeded David Ferrer beat No. 29 Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-2 whle No. 7 Tomas Berdych defeated Bosnian qualifier Damir Dzumhur 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
Two-time defending women’s champ Victoria Azarenka has a Saturday night match, with No. 3-seeded Maria Sharapova opening play on Day 6 against Alize Cornet.
Williams, meanwhile, will set another record when she plays former No. 1-ranked Ana Ivanovic on Sunday—her 70th main draw match at Melbourne Park will be the most by any woman in the Open era.
Ivanovic had a 6-7 (8), 6-4, 6-2 win over 2011 U.S. Open champ and local favourite Sam Stosur earlier today while two-time finalist Li Na beat No. 26-seeded Lucie Safarova 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.
“Serena is on top of the game for so long now. You know, she’s someone we admire, actually,” Ivanovic said.
“It’s going to be very tough task but I look forward to that challenge.”
Also today, Montreal’s Eugenie Bouchard—the No. 30 seed—reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time today as she beat American Lauren Davis 6-2, 6-2.
Williams’ win over Hantuchova was her 61st at the Australian Open—surpassing Margaret Court’s mark of 60.
Her focus, though, is clearly the four more wins it will take to deliver an 18th major title.
She barely gave her latest record a thought in her post-match news conference today.
Asked if she recalled a particular highlight at Melbourne Park, Williams smiled, momentarily paused, and said: “For sure all the finals I was able to win.”

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