April 17, 2014

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Australian Open: Roger Federer survives sweltering conditions to win first-round match, set another record

Roger Federer of Switzerland serves to James Duckworth of Australia during their first-round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Roger Federer of Switzerland serves to James Duckworth of Australia during their first-round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

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 106 degrees 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.”

“It was very dry, just hot, 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 — 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.

Federer said Edberg, a childhood hero whom he hired on a part-time basis last month, practiced with him before the match.
“He warmed me up … I won!”

The heat at Melbourne Park topped 108 later, and the forecast was for more high temperatures until Friday. It was even hotter in nearby Avalon, which peaked above 113.

A hot, gusty breeze swirled across Melbourne Park all day, making conditions more challenging instead of cooler. The crowd for the day session was 35,571, almost 12,000 down from the first day.

Players draped bags of ice over their necks and shoulders and sat under covered seats in the changeovers. 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 sat 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 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 with an injured shoulder and where No. 13 John Isner, the only seeded American man in the draw, retired with an injured right ankle after losing the first two sets against Martin Klizan.

Czech veteran Radek Stepanek retired with a sore neck in the fourth set against Blaz Kavcic, but said it wasn’t heat-related.
Frenchman Stephane Robert, who got a late spot in the draw when No. 21 Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew, beat Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-0.

No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 Australian finalist, advanced along with No. 11 Milos Raonic, No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 16 Kei Nishikori — who needed five sets to beat Australian Marinko Matosevic — and No. 31 Fernando Verdasco.

On the women’s side, No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanzka, No. 8 Jelena Jankovic, No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 11 Simona Halep, No. 16 Carla Suarez Navarro, No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova and American Christina McHale all advanced.

Garbine Muguruza of Spain, a recent champion in Hobart, beat No. 24 Kaia Kanepi.

Former No. 1-ranked Wozniacki said the court was scorching in her 6-0, 6-2 win over Lourdes Dominguez Lino, which started at 11 a.m.

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.

“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.”