Tennis: Maria Sharapova reaches third round at Aussie Open
Melbourne, Australia • Maria Sharapova survived the searing heat and an intense challenge from Karin Knapp to advance to the third round of the Australian Open with a grueling 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 win in 3 hours, 28 minutes.
The temperature was forecast to spike at 44 Celsius (111) Thursday, on the third straight day of a heat wave. It was already 39C (102F) when Sharapova's match started and increased to 42.5C (108.5), forcing organizers to enact the Extreme Heat Policy and suspend matches on outside courts.
Sharapova wasted three match points on serve at 5-4 in the third set, and then had to save break points and serve to stay in the match before getting the crucial break in the 17th game of the deciding set.
Despite serving three double-faults in the last game, the third-seeded Sharapova held on to win on her fourth match point 50 minutes later when Knapp made consecutive errors at deuce.
"It's tough for both of us. We fought as hard as we could," Sharapova said. "She played some of the best tennis I've seen her play."
Sharapova, playing her second tournament back from extended time off for a right shoulder injury, wore ice vests in every changeover after the third game, draped ice bags over shoulders and poured water over her head.
Sharapova recalled a first-round match in sauna-like conditions in Australia in 2007 that she won 9-7 in the third against Camille Pin and where "I remember being really close to passing out."
"I'm feeling much better now," she said.
She'll next meet No. 25 Alize Cornet of France, who sobbed on court after coming back to beat Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in 21/2 hours.
"I think I spent enough time on this court for today," Cornet said in her on-court interview. "I went really further than my limits. It was really hot, that's why I'm so emotional."
O Third round
Thursday, 9 p.m.
TV • ESPN2