Australian Open 2014: Top Stories Through Early Action on Day 4

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 15, 2014

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia has a drink in his second round match against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina during day three of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Beating the heat and the top players in the field are proving to be the toughest tasks at the 2014 Australian Open.

Top seeds are still blazing their way through the early rounds of the 2014 Australian Open. Likewise, the heat is still taking its toll on players and causing a stir.

As we enter the night sessions on the fourth day of play, here's an in-depth look at the top stories.

 

Extreme Heat and Retirements

Still on Fire

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15:  Leonardo Mayer of Argentina cools down in his second round match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during day three of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mi
Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Temperatures are still over 100 degrees for matches in Melbourne, but event officials haven't decided to pull the plug on the action—even temporarily. Despite players like Victoria Azarenka saying it's like "dancing in a frying pan," per CNN.com, the relative low levels of humidity haven't prompted officials to make a move.

In addition to the heat potentially damaging athletes and spectators, it seems that the quality of play could also suffer due to the temperatures.

Dane Huffman of WNCN shares the concern:

Timelines and agreements are surely at stake for tournament organizers, but it would be a shame to see the decision-makers forced into action because of an unfortunate incident.

Sometimes you just need to chill—literally.

 

Number of Retirements

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 14:  Bernard Tomic of Australia removes strapping from his leg in his first round match against Rafael Nadal of Spain during day two of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The nine first-round retirements equaled a record for the event, per The Times of India. Though injuries to Bernard Tomic and John Isner could be unrelated to the conditions, the heat has to take some of the blame. 

It will be interesting to see how the retirements affect the bracket moving forward. 

None of the retired players on the men's or women's side were considered strong favorites. If anything, it may allow top-seeded players to conserve energy for the later rounds.

 

Top Seeds Continue to Roll

Serena Williams

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15:  Serena Williams of the United States plays a forehand in her second round match against Vesna Dolonc of Serbia during day three of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
Chris Hyde/Getty Images

The world's most dominant female player has shrugged off the heat and both of her opponents to this point. She's lost just three games in each of her first two matches in Melbourne.

Her focus has been amazing thus far. She blasted Ashleigh Barty and Vesna Dolonc in straight sets. 

She will face No. 31 seed Daniela Hantuchova in the third round. Williams has beaten her in eight of their nine meetings. Hantuchova's lone win in the series did come at the Australian Open in 2006.

 

Novak Djokovic

The three-time defending champion made quick work of Leonardo Mayer in the second round. It helped make up for being extended to a tiebreaker in the second set against Lukas Lacko in the first round.

"Nole" is rolling as he heads into a clash with Denis Istomin in the third round. Djokovic has beaten him in all three of their prior meetings, including a match in the 2010 Australian Open.

Istomin only managed to win one set in those three matches.

 

Rafael Nadal

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15:  Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a forehand in a practice session during day three of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
Robert Prezioso/Getty Images

The top seed might just be the freshest player in Melbourne. His first-round opponent Tomic retired after the first set due to a groin injury, sparing Nadal a prolonged battle in the heat.

He'll take the court on Thursday against Thanasi Kokkinakis with a chance to advance to the third round. They have never played each other, but it goes without saying that a win for Kokkinakis would be a monumental upset.

In any case, the match should be a thrill for the 17-year-old unranked Australian. Competing against one of the game's all-time greats before your 18th birthday is something most people can't lay claim to.

Doing it in his homeland is just icing on the cake.

 

Victoria Azarenka

Jan 14, 2014; Melbourne, AUSTRALIA; Victoria Azarenka (BLR) during her match against Johanna Larsson (SWE) on day two of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.  Mandatory Credit: Matthias Hauer/GEPA via USA TODAY Sports
GEPA/USA TODAY Sports

Azarenka will try to avoid jumping out of the "frying pan" into the fire when she faces Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova in the second round. Azarenka was pushed to a tiebreaker in the first set of her first-round match with Johanna Larsson.

She collected herself and won the second set 6-2, but the two-time defending champion would like to have an easier time in Round 2. Azarenka has won both of the previous meetings with Zahlavova-Strycova.

 

Potential Sleeper

Casey Dellacqua

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15:  Casey Dellacqua of Australia serves in her second round match against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium during day three of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Sc
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

It's still early, but the 28-year-old Australian has steamrolled through the first two rounds of play. In the second round, Dellacqua ousted No. 18 Kirsten Flipkens 6-3, 6-0. She has advanced as far as the fourth round at the Australian Open in her career. 

Could this be the year she makes even more noise?

She has a tough third-round match with Jie Zheng. If Dellacqua wins, she'll likely open up even more eyes in Melbourne.

 

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