Maria Sharapova battled for more than three hours in roasting conditions to reach the third round of the Australian Open and then called for greater clarity on the tournament’s extreme heat policy.
The third seed was on court for three hours and 28 minutes on her way to a 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 victory over Italy’s Karin Knapp.
Tournament referee Wayne McKewen makes the call when to suspend play but there is no fixed temperature that brings the rule into effect, with humidity, wind direction and forecast all taken into account.
Conditions were deemed unplayable yesterday as the thermometer hit 42C ye,t on Tuesday, it was above 40C for five hours and play continued.
Sharapova said: “There is no way getting around the fact that the conditions were extremely difficult and have been for the last few days. It’s a tough call. I think the question I have is no one really knows what the limit is. Not the players or the trainers.
“We’ve never received any e-mails or warnings about the weather or what to do. Actually, I did receive one while I was in the ice bath a few minutes ago, and I was like, ‘That’s a little too late’.”
A quirk of the policy means, even when it is fully implemented, players are required to finish the set before matches are suspended on the uncovered courts and the roofs are shut on Rod Laver and Hisense Arenas. That meant Sharapova and Knapp had to finish their match even though, in theory at least, it could have gone on indefinitely.
The Russian said: “Officials can’t just rely on maybe the set will go fast and the set will be over and we’ll be off court. I think our match was an example of that.”
Sharapova next meets France’s Alize Cornet, who was in tears at the end of her 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Camila Giorgi. She said: “I think I was very brave, like every player at this tournament in these conditions.”
Defending champion Victoria Azarenka claimed a 6-1, 6-4 win over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova while tenth seed Caroline Wozniacki beat Christina McHale 6-0, 1-6, 6-2. Fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska was a 6-0, 7-5 winner over Olga Govortsova.
Sloane Stephens recovered from the brink of defeat to win 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 against Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic while Jelena Jankovic eased to a 6-2, 6-0 victory against Japan’s Ayumi Morita.