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June 29, 2017

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Temperature dominates the story at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Maria Sharapova toiled in 43-degree Celsius temperatures for more than 3 1/2 hours on Rod Laver Arena. Caroline Wozniacki played the next match in what she considered "pleasant" conditions under the roof on the same court at the Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer also played later Thursday — unusually simultaneously — in the comparatively cooler conditions after the tournament invoked its Extreme Heat Policy and the roofs on its two main arenas were closed. All matches on outside courts, meanwhile, were suspended for more than four hours until temperatures dropped.

For sure, the luck of the draw for Thursday's schedule of matches meant there were those who had to endure what some players referred to as "inhumane" conditions, and those who didn't. Sharapova, Wozniacki, Nadal and Federer all won their matches, and certainly Sharapova's was the most taxing.

Problems with the weather didn't end after the temperatures subsided — thunderstorms, lightning and rain showers hit Melbourne Park during the early evening, forcing another suspension of play for matches on the outer courts.

That didn't affect night matches scheduled at Rod Laver Arena under the roof. Defending champion Victoria Azarenka beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1, 6-4 and No. 4 Andy Murray was to play Vincent Millot of France.

The roof was most definitely open to the gruesome elements several hours earlier when four-time major winner Sharapova was serving at 5-4 in the third set, 2 hours and 38 minutes into her second-round match against No. 44-ranked Karin Knapp.

Wozniacki had a 6-0, 1-6, 6-2 win over American Christina McHale. Federer played on the second show court at Melbourne Park for the first time in a decade, and raced to a 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (4) win over Blaz Kavcic under the roof at Hisense Arena.

Federer said he didn't mind the switch — he'd played 63 consecutive matches on Rod Laver since 2004.

In the only men's match completed before the Extreme Heat Policy was invoked, No. 16 Kei Nishikori had a 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (3) win over Dusan Lajovic. He will next play American Donald Young, who beat No. 24 Andreas Seppi 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in one of the matches suspended for nearly four hours due to the heat.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga started his match under the blazing sun and finished it with a roof over the court in beating Thomaz Bellucci 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-4 at Hisense Arena.

No. 25 Gael Monfils beat Amercian Jack Sock 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-2 in an evening match. Organizers announced later that Canadian Vasek Pospisil withdrew with a back injury from his scheduled third-round match Friday against No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka.

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