As has been the case throughout the tournament thus far, blistering heat in Melbourne headlined Day 4 of the Australian Open. The conditions were so extreme that play halted on the outside courts until the temperature dropped, but it didn't stop a number of players from coming through with impressive performances.
With Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer in action on the men's side along with Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in the women's draw, several high-profile players had to brave the scorching sun in order to advance.
Day 4 may have been lean on big upsets, with one notable exception, but it will be interesting to see what type of toll the draining heat has on players moving forward.
Here is a full listing of men's and women's singles results from Day 4 in Melbourne, as well as a look at the biggest storylines that tennis fans can't stop talking about.
|Rafael Nadal (1) def. Thanasi Kokkinakis||6-2, 6-4, 6-2|
|Andy Murray (4) def. Vincent Millot||6-2, 6-2, 7-5|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10) def. Thomaz Bellucci||7-6(6), 6-4, 6-4|
|Roger Federer (6) def. Blaz Kavcic||6-2, 6-1, 7-6(4)|
|Gael Monfils (25) def. Jack Sock||7-6(2), 7-5, 6-2|
|Benoit Paire (27) def. Nick Kyrgios||6-7(5), 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2, 6-2|
|Roberto Bautista Agut def. Juan Martin del Potro (5)||4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5|
|Donald Young def. Andreas Seppi (24)||6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5|
|Teymuraz Gabashvili def. Fernando Verdasco (31)||7-6(1), 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4|
|Kei Nishikori (16) def. Dusan Lajovic||6-1, 6-1, 7-6(3)|
|Grigor Dimitrov (22) def. Yen-Hsun Lu||6-3, 6-3, 7-6(11)|
|Feliciano Lopez (26) def. Michael Berrer||6-4, 7-6(4), 6-4|
|Stephane Robert def. Michal Przysiezny||7-6(3), 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-1|
|Milos Raonic (11) def. Victor Hanescu||7-6(9_, 6-4, 6-4|
|Gilles Simon (18) def. Marin Cilic||4-6, 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-2|
|Martin Klizan def. Blaz Rola||6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(2)|
|Maria Sharapova (3) def. Karin Knapp||6-3, 4-6, 10-8|
|Caroline Wozniacki (10) def. Christina McHale||6-0, 1-6, 6-2|
|Victoria Azarenka (2) def. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova||6-1, 6-4|
|Elina Svitolina def. Olivia Rogowska||6-4, 7-5|
|Agnieszka Radwanska (5) def. Olga Govortsova||6-0, 7-5|
|Alize Cornet (25) def. Camila Giorgi||6-3, 4-6, 6-4|
|Sloane Stephens (13) def. Ajla Tomljanovic||3-6, 6-2, 7-5|
|Carla Suarez Navarro (16) def. Galina Voskoboeva||7-6(2), 3-6, 8-6|
|Garbine Muguruza def. Anna Schmiedlova||6-3, 6-3|
|Yvonne Meusburger def. Bojana Jovanovski (33)||3-6, 6-3, 6-2|
|Simona Halep (11) def. Varvara Lepchenko||4-6, 6-0, 6-1|
|Jelena Jankovic (8) def. Ayumi Morita||6-2, 6-0|
|Zarina Diyas def. Marina Erakovic||6-4, 6-0|
|Dominika Cibulkova (20) def. Stefanie Voegele||6-0, 6-1|
|Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (29) def. Mandy Minella||6-2, 6-2|
|Kurumi Nara def. Magdalena Rybarikova (32)||6-4, 6-3|
Heat Continues to Mar Aussie Open
The fact that it gets extremely hot in Australia in January isn't exactly breaking news, but the intensity of the conditions has seemingly gone to a different level in 2014. The heat impacted play from the very first day of the tournament, and it was more of the same on Day 4.
In fact, Day 4 was the hottest day of the tournament thus far, and it resulted in Australian Open officials deciding to put the extreme heat policy into effect, according to the tournament's official Twitter account.
Current matches will finish all sets in progress. RLA & HA roofs will close & those matches will resume. All other matches will be suspended— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 16, 2014
Although indoor play continued, officials delayed all play on the outer courts. Per ESPN Tennis on Twitter, this marked the first time in five years that heat halted play at the Australian Open.
Play resumed about four hours later, and tournament director Craig Tiley explained why officials made the decision to temporarily stop the outdoor matches:
Despite the brutal conditions, fans still came out in droves to watch the elite-level tennis that the Australian Open is so well known for. They surely took extra precautions such as staying hydrated and finding shade as often as possible, but they also took advantage of the garden square fountain, as seen in this Vine:
It was apparent to anyone watching on Day 4 that the heat played a huge role in how the players performed, but No. 10-seeded men's player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga confirmed it by providing an incredible visual during his win over Thomaz Bellucci:
The fact that Tsonga and so many others were able to persevere through the heat and still perform at a high level confirmed that tennis players are among the best athletes in the world. If they can play through temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, then it stands to reason that they can accomplish pretty much anything.
Juan Martin del Potro Shocked in Second Round
Heading into Day 4, it seemed as though the heat could be a great equalizer in terms of helping the underdogs hang with the top seeds. That wasn't the case for the most part, as the world's best players continued to prove why they deserve such lofty rankings.
With that said, the heat clearly had a negative impact on No. 5-seeded Juan Martin del Potro. The massive Argentinian has been in fine form as of late, and most observers viewed him as the player most likely to play spoiler against the likes of Nadal, Murray and Novak Djokovic.
After del Potro had a bit of trouble with American qualifier Rhyne Williams in the first round, Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut took him to the brink and ultimately defeated him in a five-set thriller.
The 25-year-old del Potro has all the tools necessary to enter the upper echelon of players, and he even has a Grand Slam title to his credit after shocking Federer in the U.S. Open final way back in 2009. Add that to the Olympic bronze medal he won in 2012, and there is no question he is an accomplished player.
For whatever reason, however, he has faltered in big spots as of late. According to Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times, del Potro's loss to Bautista Agut represents his second consecutive second-round exit at a Grand Slam.
After also losing to Hewitt in five at US Open last year, that loss to Bautista Agut is del Potro's second straight Slam R2 exit. #AusOpen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 16, 2014
If nothing else, del Potro's shocking loss makes things a bit lighter in the tough half of the bracket. Nadal, Murray, Federer and Tsonga all reside in the same half, and del Potro's failure means there is one less speed bump en route to a potential final clash with Djokovic.
Hard courts are generally del Potro's best surface, so he has plenty of soul searching to do moving forward, but the fact remains that he still has a very bright future ahead of him.
Maria Sharapova Narrowly Avoids Disaster
How will Sharapova fare in the Australian Open?
While del Potro's ouster in the men's draw was easily the biggest upset of Day 4, the women's side nearly trumped it. After cruising to a 6-3 win over Italy's Karin Knapp in the first set, No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova seemed well on her way to a breezy victory. However, along with the scorching sun, Knapp put the heat on Sharapova by forcing a decisive third set.
Sharapova blew several match-point opportunities in the third set and even found herself down a game on a couple of occasions due to the fact that Knapp served first. The Russian star was finally able to break Knapp to make it 9-8, though, and she displayed a great deal of relief after finishing the job.
The Sharapova vs. Knapp match lasted for three hours and 28 minutes overall, and it cemented itself as the longest women's match of the tournament thus far in terms of time on court.
Sharapova-Knapp is now officially the longest women's match of the tournament so far at 3 hours and 14 minutes. It just keeps on going!— ESPNTennis (@ESPNTennis) January 16, 2014
Sharapova didn't make any excuses for her less than stellar performance, but she acknowledged the fact that the heat made a difference.
She also made it clear that she plans to rest up prior to her third-round encounter with No. 25 Alize Cornet of France.
Heading into the Australian Open, most seemed to view a Sharapova vs. Azarenka semifinal for the right to face Serena Williams in the final as a foregone conclusion. Based on the manner in which Sharapova struggled against a fairly anonymous opponent, that isn't necessarily the case.
Sharapova lived to fight another day, however, and displayed the heart of a champion when faced with adversity.
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