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Sharapova averts upset

MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova overcame the searing heat and an intense challenge from Karin Knapp to reach the third round of the Australian Open today, winning 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 in 3 hours, 28 minutes.

The temperature was forecast to spike at 111 degrees on the third day of a heat wave. It was 102 when Sharapova's match started and hit 108.5, forcing organizers to enact their extreme heat policy. That meant women's matches had an extended break after the second set and all players could wear ice vests during changeovers.

In addition, matches on outside courts were suspended. And on other courts, the retractable roofs were closed.

Serving at 5-4 in the third, Sharapova, ranked No. 3 in the world, wasted three match points. After breaking for a 9-8 lead, she finished off the No. 44 Knapp despite double-faulting three times in the ensuing game. The last point came 50 minutes after her first match point.

"(The heat was) tough for both of us. We fought as hard as we could," Sharapova said. "She played some of the best tennis I've seen her play."

Sharapova faces No. 25 seed Alize Cornet, who sobbed on the court after beating Camila Giorgi 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in a match that lasted 21/2 hours.

"I think I spent enough time on this court for today," Cornet said in her on-court interview. "I went really further than my limits. It was really hot. That's why I'm so emotional. Doing something physical in this heat, it's just unbelievable. Even you guys (in the crowd) sitting in the sun, it must be terrible."

No. 11 seed Simona Halep won 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 over Varvara Lepchenko, who won one game after needing treatment for heat problems late in the second set.

"At first, I didn't understand what was going on," Lepchenko said. "But then my legs, my arms started to get heavier. I couldn't focus at one point and started feeling dizzier and dizzier. They should have just not started the matches in the first place."

The seats with no shade on the outer courts were virtually empty. Spectators congregated under trees or in the upper reaches of stands, where temporary covers provided a little relief.

"Even the seats are really hot," New Zealander Helen Naylor said. "So I've got an overheated bum, which is not very comfortable. God knows how (the players) are running around out there."

Sharapova averts upset 01/15/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 16, 2014 12:06am]
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