Del Potro sent packing at Australian Open

Argentine is first major casualty of men's draw in a day of disruptions, but Nadal, Murray and Azarenka charge ahead in Australian Open

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 1:04am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 1:04am

World number one Rafa Nadal of Spain swept into the Australian Open third round under the Rod Laver Arena roof on Thursday night but Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro was sent packing as sweltering temperatures, lightning and rain caused chaos on outside courts.

Fifth seed Del Potro, whose match was shunted back to the late evening by the disruptions, was the first major casualty of the men's draw when he lost 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 to 62nd ranked Spaniard Roberto Bautista.

On a third consecutive day of sauna-like heat and with temperatures climbing towards a peak of 43.4 degrees Celsius, organisers finally enacted the third stage of their "extreme heat policy" after three hours' play.

Play was suspended for more than four hours on the exposed outer courts and, in a bizarre turn of events, the players had been back on court for less than two hours when a thunderstorm sent them scuttling back to the locker rooms.

For me, everything was fine. Played under the closed roof, so lightning couldn't hit me. I didn't feel the heat. I didn't get sunburned. I was in the perfect conditions
Victoria Azarenka

Matches continued on the Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena throughout both stoppages, the latter lasting nearly two hours, after the retractable roofs over the showcourts were closed. That allowed Nadal, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Roger Federer of Switzerland to charge through their second-round ties before the Rod Laver Arena was again exposed to the elements for Briton Andy Murray to join them in the third round in the evening cool.

"For me, everything was fine," said defending champion Azarenka after beating Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4.

"Played under the closed roof, so lightning couldn't hit me. I didn't feel the heat. I didn't get sunburned. I was in the perfect conditions today."

Third seed Maria Sharapova of Russia had a tougher time, though, and a quirk of the rules meant her match against Karin Knapp of Italy was concluded in the full glare of the sun some 50 minutes after it was adjudged too dangerous to play. Sharapova won 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.

Top seed Nadal took advantage of slightly cooler conditions under the roof to administer a 6-2 6-4 6-2 thrashing to plucky 17-year-old Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis. The Spaniard, seeking a second Australian Open title, was delighted to be indoors.

"It was important that the serve was there during the whole match," he said.

Federer also picked out his "rock-solid" serve as a highlight of his 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (4), demolition of Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia.

Murray displayed his customary brand of controlled aggression to beat France's Vincent Millot 6-2, 6-2, 7-5.

Millot broke Murray twice to lead 5-1 in the third set before the Scottish fourth seed reasserted himself by winning 23 consecutive points to finish the match.

"I didn't really care about winning 23 points in a row, I wanted to win the match," said the Wimbledon champion.

Women's fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland beat Olga Govortsova of Belarus while 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark downed American Christina McHale 6-0 1-6 6-2.