It was a day that we could have melted butter for our popcorn bits of tennis coverage right on the court as temperatures soared past 40 degrees under the Melbourne sun. But players stuck it out, battling in sweltering conditions throughout the day. Top seed and defending champion Victoria Azarenka was through, dropping just one game, and men’s favourites Roger Federer and Andy Murray also skipped through in straight sets. And it was a (personal) record-setting day for Serena Williams. Read about Serena and more in our Day 4 wrap.
In what has been a woeful year for the Australian contingent, Bernard Tomic has been a beacon of hope. That didn’t seem possible a few months ago as the youngster closed out the 2012 season in with a flurry of poor results. But after a win in Sydney last week, Tomic rolled through his first round and Thursday found another gear, registering a 6-7(4) 7-5 7-6 (4) 7-6(8) win over a game Daniel Brands. Next up? Roger Federer in the third round. Watch Tomic’s impeccable shot of the day here.
Call it an upset? Fans were anything but that as Sam Stosur returned to the doubles court, pairing with Julia Goerges to win their opener over seeds Daniela Hantuchova and Anabel Medina Garrigues. Sure, Hantuchova/Medina Garrigues are only the 16th seeds, but Stosur hasn’t played doubles in Melbourne in four years. Friday she takes to the mixed doubles court with fellow Aussie Luke Saville.
In one of the most grueling matches of the day, Slovenian Blaz Kavcic needed nearly five hours to down local hope James Duckworth, 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-7(3) 10-8. Duckworth was near cramping towards the end of the fifth set, sharing the trainer on court with Kavcic during changeovers as they both had their legs rubbed down. “It's something that us tennis players have to deal with from time to time,” Duckworth said of the disappointment. “I was pretty shattered after.”
If it was disappointment for Duckworth it was outright elation for 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, who won through to the third round of the Australian Open for the first time since 1995, when she was 24. Date-Krumm downed former top 20 player Shahar Peer 6-2 7-5. In the third round the Japanese veteran will take on Bojana Jovanovksi, who was just three years old when Kimiko made the semifinals in Melbourne in 1995.
A big serve from Serena Williams? We wouldn’t expect anything less. But Serena wasn’t expecting quite as much when she delivered a 207 km bomb to seal her 6-2, 6-0 win over Garbine Muguruza. “I was not expecting 207, I was aiming for 200.” She was also aiming for the line – which she hit to advance to round three to face Ayumi Morita.
The stat 2
A quick start? You wanted one Thursday. Players (and doubles teams) that won the first set in the blistering heat were an impressive 48-12 in 60 total matches. Let’s cue the comeback wins for Friday.
Did that just happen?
Really, did it? The media centre – and all of Hisense Arena – was moaning and groaning at the sight of Gael Monfils hitting four (FOUR!) straight double faults on match point up in his match against Yen-Hsun Lu. Serving at 7-6 in the final set, the eccentric Frenchman four times went up an ad to seal the deal. But he double faulted four times to let his opponent stay in the match. Monfils closed the 7-6(5) 4-6 0-6 6-1 8-6 win with none other than a service winner.
View from the outer
It wasn’t just the players who were trying to stay cool Thursday. Fans, tournament staff and probably even some people watching on TV needed extra sunscreen, a litre of water and personal air conditioner systems to stave off the heat, which stayed around the 35 degree mark for much of the day.
At Rod Laver Arena all day Friday. Whether it’s a day session or night, the lineup on Day 5 is hard to beat. American up-and-comer Madison Keys takes on 2012 upstart Angelique Kerber in the first match of the day followed by 2011 finalist Li Na facing Sorana Cirstea, who stunned Sam Stosur here a year ago. Novak Djokovic closes the day against veteran Radek Stepanek. At night it’s even a better lineup: Venus Williams battles Maria Sharapova in what promises to be a diva epic before David Ferrer runs into the electric Marcos Baghdatis.
Tomorrow’s headline: Bernard’s Big Battle
The lone Australian playing gets arguably the best man to ever hit a tennis ball in his third-round encounter Saturday. All set for a Bernie-Roger showdown?
This video - an intimate look behind the scenes for the Stosur v Zheng match - is excellent. For fans of Sam, it's gutting.
Here's some highlights from late matches yesterday - Djokovic was in scintillating form.
A little look at the fashion and style on court at AO2013
It's Alize Crnet's turn to be taken for a spin in the Kia - hear her thoughts on biscuits, chores, her toughest opponent, and the hottest man in tennis. Plus plenty of singing thrown in.
It's retrospective time! Sitting in Cornet's box last night was Amelie Mauresmo, champion at Australian Open 2006. Here's a look back at how she won the title. Controversial match!
Vika's in no mood for messing around today - she's up 6-1 4-0.
The view from inside Tournament Control, straight from Mr Craig Tiley himself. The crew are preparing for a HOT day in Melbourne - the mercury is expected to hit 39 later today.
The latest Popcorn Tennis vid - best response EVER at the 30-second mark.
The French fans are out in force on Margaret Court Arena, but they're going to have to yell a little bit louder - their man Tsonga is receiving to stay in the second set.
A young fan beats the heat. Currently it's 34.5 degrees out there ...
After coming through a one hour and 13 minute first set, Kirilenko is streaking away in her match against Peng on Hisense. Leads 7-5 5-2.
She might be in the wars, but Serena has just managed to clinch the first set over Garbine Muguruza, 6-2.
Love a bit of time-lapse footage!
Vika faces the press after her destruction of Daniilidou - said she's feeling good, enjoyed how focused she was, and was in the zone.
Yes that Djokovic v Harrison match was indeed pretty quick - here's a longer highlights package. The first set was brutal, and Djokovic's forehand simply sublime.
Great story here - former world No.1 junior Ricardas Berankis, a qualifier at AO2013, beats 25th seed Florian Mayer in straight sets to reach the third round. Breaking the top 100 before injuries took hold for a couple of seasons, the talented Lithuanian is on the way back.