MELBOURNE, Australia – Maria Sharapova of Russia recovered from the longest, hottest match of her career to beat Alize Cornet of France 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) Friday and reach the fourth round of the Australian Open tennis tournament.
Sharapova’s third-round match was played on a 72-degree day, compared with the 108-degree heat she endured for 3 hours, 28 minutes in her second-round victory over Karin Knapp two days earlier. That preceded the first match suspensions under the tournament’s Extreme Heat Policy in five years.
Again, though, the third-seeded Sharapova struggled to close out. She took 50 minutes between her first and last match points against Knapp, and needed almost 30 minutes to finish off No. 25 Cornet — she missed a match point with a wayward backhand and then got broken twice while trying to serve for the match.
Sharapova had 29 of her total 35 unforced errors in the second set.
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“After the last match, I’m just happy to get through this,” Sharapova said.
“Definitely need to step it up.”
The four-time major winner needed an ice bath after her second-round victory but joked about needing a warm bath after beating Cornet.
Sharapova was still wearing ice vests and draping ice-filled towels over her shoulders in the changeovers on a humid day.
Cornet appeared to be laboring between points in the second set. She had been clearly distressed after her second-round victory in the heat, sobbing when she described the conditions as like “an oven.”
American Sloane Stephens is having another good Australian Open, advancing with a 7-5, 6-4 decision over Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
Last year, Stephens made it to the fourth round or better at all four majors — joining Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska as the only women to achieve that feat.
And Stephens, seeded 13th this year, beat fellow American Williams in last year’s quarterfinals at Melbourne Park, one of a mere four losses for Williams in 2013.
In the men’s bracket, four-time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland advanced to the fourth round of the tournament for the 13th consecutive year.
He beat Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
Novak Djokovic, seeking his fourth consecutive Australian Open title, beat Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-3, 7-5.
“I have to be satisfied … as the tournament progresses, I’m playing better and better,” said Djokovic, who is from Serbia.
Fourth-seeded Andy Murray beat No. 26 seed Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-2.