One. More. Day. That's the prevailing thought floating around in the heads of the remaining players at the 2014 Australian Open, as a week of sweltering heat and exhaustive conditions will begin subsiding over the weekend and allow for a smoother tournament.
But for those who got the unlucky draw of a Day 5 match, their skin will be baked a crispy, golden brown one more day. According to The Weather Network, temperatures in Melbourne are expected to reach well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit yet again Friday afternoon at the year's first Grand Slam (Thursday evening going into Friday in the U.S.), which could lead to unforeseen results or even a delay of play.
Day 4's action was halted and matches were postponed, as the tournament enacted its Extreme Heat Policy to ensure the safety of fans and players. Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena both saw their roofs close in order to continue action, while the outdoor courts were off limits until well into Thursday evening locally.
Some, including third-seeded woman Maria Sharapova, had to play her entire 18-game third set in the heat due to tournament rules. Others got the advantage—if you could call it that—of playing under the roof.
While it's unclear whether Friday will reach Thursday's scorching temperatures, it's safe to say that no one will be all that pleased to be outdoors.
Top-seeded woman Serena Williams and second-seeded male Novak Djokovic highlight the proceedings, so let's take a look at how you can watch all the Day 5 action, specifically highlighting the best matches of the day.
Day 5 Information
Start Time (U.S.): Thursday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. ET
When (Melbourne): Friday, Jan. 17, at 11 a.m.
Watch: ESPN2, Tennis Channel
Live Stream: ESPN3
Full Schedule: Available at Australian Open's Official Website
Day 5 Matches of Note
(1) Serena Williams vs. (31) Daniela Hantuchova
Two words for you, Ms. Hantuchova: Good luck. The 30-year-old Slovak, who made the semifinals in this event six years ago, is perhaps the biggest third-round underdog on either side of the bracket.
Hantuchova comes in having been eliminated in the first round in five of her last six Grand Slams, the only outlier being a surprising quarterfinals run at the 2013 U.S. Open.
She's beaten Williams twice, but that came out of 10 head-to-head matches and one of those triumphs was a withdrawal on Williams' part.
The only time Hantuchova actually beat Williams? Eight years ago at this very tournament—in the third round. So those of you looking to fall into a serendipitous financial windfall might want to throw a couple of bones on Hantuchova. She's at least a better bet than scooping up a Powerball.
Just not by that much.
Williams heads into the Friday afternoon affair boasting a 24-match winning streak and she's been on an absolute warpath thus far in Melbourne. Rather than facing the prospect of spending any extended period of time in the sun, Williams has instead put together two straight-sets victories during which she's lost a total of six games.
In her 63-minute romp over Vesna Dolonc, Williams made slight work of her unseeded opponent despite making 19 unforced errors and at times looking sloppy. After the match, Williams indicated that the heat was playing a major factor in how she prepared for the matches.
"I kept waking up in the middle of the night last night just paranoid,” Williams told Cindy Boren of the Washington Post. “I just wanted to stay hydrated.”
It'll be something to watch in the third round, mostly because of Williams' propensity to melt down—sorry—when things aren't going her way. But I'm sure as hell not picking against her.
(2) Novak Djokovic vs. Denis Istomin
Pretty much everything said about Williams could be transferred to Djokovic. The world's second-ranked player has a 26-match winning streak to Williams' streak of 24 victories. Other than that, the dominance narrative pretty much plays itself out.
Djokovic has another, equally publicized winning streak—23 straight matches at the Australian Open. He looks like an overwhelming favorite to run straight through his side of the bracket, at which point we'll probably wind up with the inevitable Rafael Nadal clash of the titans.
Juan Martin del Potro's surprising second-round defeat opened up Nadal's side of the bracket enough to make this feel like an inevitability.
Poor Istomin, he's just the latest teaser fodder. The 27-year-old Russian made a surprising run to the third round after his victories over Marcos Baghdatis and Dmitry Tursunov, marking the second time in his career he's won twice Down Under.
Istomin is coming off a fourth-round appearance at the U.S. Open, so one could say he's in a bit of a groove, but his past matchups against Djokovic suggest this won't be much of a contest.
In three victories, Nole straight-setted Istomin twice and came back from a first-set loss for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory last year in Montreal. Not exactly the most encouraging results, not that you'd exactly expect them to be.
Expect Djokovic to come out firing again as he did in his second-round win over Leonardo Mayer. The Serb blanked his overmatched opponent in the first set and failed to lose a service game during the entire match. Lethality is the only way to get through these matches without suffering some form of exhaustion.
There may be no more lethally efficient player in the world than Djokovic.
(9) Richard Gasquet vs. (17) Tommy Robredo
Finally, a match more intriguing for the uncertainty than the name value. Gasquet, as you can tell by those little numbers to the left of the players' names, is certainly the favorite.
The 27-year-old Frenchman has made the fourth round in each of his last two appearances in Melbourne and had a stellar 2013 season that saw him ensconce himself in the top 10.
Robredo made the quarterfinals in this event in 2007, but that was six years ago. He's been far less successful since, being eliminated in the first round of two of his last three appearances before this year and never advancing past the fourth again.
Nearing his 32nd birthday, Robredo is also more than four years older than his counterpart and on the back stretch of his career. He's also had quite a bit of trouble advancing through the first two rounds despite questionable competition.
Both Julien Benneteau and Lukas Rosol took Robredo to the brink. Rosol captured both the second and third sets during the first round before falling in an 8-6 fifth set, while Benneteau was only dispatched after a scintillating tiebreaker in the fourth.
Robredo especially struggled with break points against Rosol, converting only six of 18 chances. It'll be interesting to see how he handles Gasquet, who has stayed efficient despite some bouts with unforced errors.
Gasquet waltzed to straight-sets victories over Nikolay Davydenko and David Guez, facing only a single tiebreak in the lot. If long-term fatigue is a factor, Gasquet should be at a distinct advantage—as if the age, rankings and other factors were not already playing in his favor.
For those in need of a thriller, however, there is some hope. Gasquet and Robredo have split their four head-to-head matches, dating back a decade. Gasquet won the last match in straight sets back in 2010.
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