The blistering heat in Melbourne hasn't stopped the world's top tennis stars from blistering their opponents at the 2014 Australian Open. That could change on Thursday, Jan. 16, however, as the TV schedule for Day 4 features Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray and others, who'll do their utmost to avoid an embarrassing upset in Round 2.
Not all have thrived in the brutal conditions, however.
With temperatures soaring to 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42.2 Celsius) on Jan. 14, per CNN.com, Canadian Frank Dancevic fainted while battling Frenchman Benoit Paire, prompting him to speak out against the "inhumane" conditions:
I think it's inhumane, I don't think it's fair to anybody, to the players, to the fans, to the sport, when you see players pulling out of matches, passing out.
I've played five set matches all my life and being out there for a set and a half and passing out with heat-stroke, it's not normal.
I personally don't think it's fair and I know a lot of players don't think it's fair.
Unfortunately, the heat wave is expected to continue for another couple of days, according to Weather.com, which projects 105 degrees for Jan. 15 and 104 degrees for Jan. 16 before dropping down into the 70s over the weekend.
Heat won't stop the action, however—the show must go on. With that in mind, here's a look at the television schedule for Day 4:
|Thursday, Jan. 16||3 p.m. - 6 p.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
|Thursday, Jan. 16||7 p.m. - 11 p.m.||Third round||Tennis Channel|
|Thursday, Jan. 16||11 p.m. - 7 a.m.||Early round||ESPN2|
Sharapova (3) will get the action kicked off at Rod Laver Arena at 7 p.m. ET (11 a.m. local time) when she takes on Italy's Karin Knapp.
Both women cruised through Round 1 in straight sets, and the most interesting thing to report is that Sharapova showed up with an ice vest to help her stay cool, as reported by the Associated Press:
After missing the U.S. Open with a shoulder injury, Sharapova's strong start is an encouraging sign that perhaps she's ready to challenge Serena Williams in this year's Australian Open.
Later in the day, Nadal will hit the court to battle local boy Thanasi Kokkinakis, who shouldn't be much competition for the No. 1 player in the world.
Kokkinakis (No. 570) needed four sets to beat Igor Sijsling in Round 1, while Nadal advanced after only one set when his opponent, Bernard Tomic from Australia, retired due to a groin injury.
Unfortunately, the crowd didn't like Tomic's decision, forcing him to later defend his actions, as noted by the AFP, via ABC.et.au: "If I played on I would be out for three or four months, so I am glad I stopped...Lucky I stopped in the end, because I would have done myself a lot worse playing with Rafa another few hours on court."
It's hard to blame him. Nadal is a relentless attacker, and trying to keep up with his volleys with a groin injury would have been an excruciating experience.
Later in the evening, Victoria Azarenka (2) will take the court to face Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova.
Like Nadal, Azarenka shouldn't have any trouble dispatching her opponent. Zahlavova-Strycova has never gotten out of the third round at the Australian Open, and she wasn't sharp in her opening match against Su-Wei Hsieh.
Capping off the evening's action, Andy Murray (4) will take on Frenchman Vincent Millot (267), and it will be a shock if Murray doesn't win in straight sets. Millot is dealing with back pain, and he needed three-and-a-half hours to get past his first-round opponent.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78