Aussie heat proving tough for players
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Just the thought of playing in the sweltering heat at the Australian Open is keeping Serena Williams up at night.
So to combat the soaring temperatures, the 17-time Grand Slam champion is doing her best to stay indoors, rolling through her matches as quick as possible.
On Wednesday, the American beat No. 104-ranked Vesna Dolonc 6-1, 6-2 and equaled an Open era record held by tennis great Margaret Court with her 60th match win at the Australian Open.
"I kept waking up in the middle of the night last night, just paranoid," Williams, who regularly trains in the Florida heat, said after dropping only three games for the second straight match.
"I just wanted to stay hydrated," Williams said. "The last thing I want to do is to cramp in this weather. It can happen so easy."
If the forecast of four consecutive days 104-plus degrees Fahrenheit temperatures in Melbourne proves correct, it will be the worst heat wave in the city in more than a century.
After two days of temperatures touching 108 degrees, the forecast is for 111 on Thursday.
That will make conditions brutal again for the likes of Maria Sharapova, who opens play on the center court on Day 4 of the season's first major, and top-ranked Rafael Nadal, who has a late afternoon match.
After peaking at 2 p.m. Wednesday, the temperature dropped significantly later in the afternoon, and Australian Open tournament referee Wayne McKewen for the second consecutive day said the low humidity made it unnecessary to invoke the Extreme Heat Policy.
Overhead clouds and the lack of a hot breeze made it less stifling than the previous day.
A Grand Slam record-equaling nine players retired during the first round, when some were describing the conditions for playing matches as dangerous and inhumane.
No. 32 Ivan Dodig joined the list on Wednesday, retiring with cramps in the fourth set against Bosnian qualifier Damir Dzumhur. Dodig created a stir when he was reported as saying he thought he could die.
But tournament doctor Tim Wood again said it wasn't hot enough to endanger professional players.
"There were only a couple of court calls today related to the heat and no player required medical intervention," he said.
Williams concedes there is a stage in the heat when the body goes into auto-pilot, regardless of the preparation.
"Sometimes my body just says no to hot weather," she said. "Sometimes I have no reaction."