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
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:
Amazing watching Australian Open in this heat - tons of retirements already. Fun to watch but you wonder how it will impact the field.— Dane Huffman (@DaneHuffman) January 15, 2014
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Will Nadal gain an advantage from such light work in the first round?
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.
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.
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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