17 Jan 2014

Del Potro beaten in scorching Melbourne

7:06 am on 17 January 2014

Spanish ace Rafael Nadal swept into the Australian Open third round under the Rod Laver Arena roof but Argentine fifth seed Juan Martin Del Potro was sent packing as sweltering temperatures, lightning and rain caused chaos on the outside courts.

Del Potro's match was shunted back to the late evening by the disruptions and he became the first major casualty of the men's draw in the early hours of Friday morning when he lost 4-6 6-3 5-7 6-4 7-5 to 62nd ranked Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, who was a semi-finalist last week in Auckland.

Unheralded Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili ended Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco's run in five sets in another notable result.

With sauna-like heat and temperatures peaking at over 43 degrees Celsius, organisers finally enacted the third stage of their "Extreme Heat Policy" after three hours play.

Play was suspended for more than four hours on the exposed outer courts while matches continued on the Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena throughout both stoppages, after the retractable roofs over the showcourts were closed.

That allowed Nadal, defending women's champion Victoria Azarenka and Roger Federer to charge through their second round ties before the Rod Laver Arena was again exposed to the elements for Andy Murray to join them in the third round in the evening cool.

Azarenka beat the Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1 6-4, while third seed Maria Sharapova had a tougher time before beating inspired Italian Karin Knapp 6-3 4-6 10-8, as a quirk of the rules meant the Russian's match was concluded in the full glare of the sun some 50 minutes after it was adjudged too dangerous to play.

Top seed Nadal took advantage of slightly cooler conditions under the roof to thrash 17-year-old Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2 6-4 6-2.

Four-times Australian Open champion Federer took just 107 minutes to demolish Slovenian world number 99 Blaz Kavcic 6-2 6-1 7-6 on Hisense Arena, where he had not played, under the roof or otherwise, for 10 years.

Murray displayed his customary brand of controlled aggression to beat France's Vincent Millot 6-2 6-2 7-5 in his fourth competitive match since returning from four months on the sidelines after back surgery.

Women's fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska registered a two-set win over Olga Govortsova under the Hisense Arena roof but 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki needed a topsy-tury three to down American Christina McHale 6-0 1-6 6-2.

New Zealand number one Marina Erakovic's campaign ended with twin defeats in both the singles and the doubles.

First Erakovic lost in her second round singles match, beaten in straight sets by Kazahkstan qualifier Zarina Diyas 6-4, 6-0 - who at world number 152 was ranked 100 places below the Aucklander.

Then Erakovic teamed up with China's Zheng Jie in the doubles, where they were seeded 10th, but lost 6-3 6-3 to French pair Alize Cornet and Caroline Garcia.