Powering to a 4-0 start and an eventual 6-3, 6-4 victory against a formidable American opponent, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Sharapova looked barely ruffled by the heat that hung over the Australian Open even into the evening matches. And she left the court blowing kisses to a crowd that returned the love to a player who won here in 2008 but lost decisively in last year's semifinals to Li Na.
Afterwards, Sharapova said she was relieved to be back on court at a Grand Slam having missed last year’s US Open with a shoulder injury, even if it was on such a hot night. "I'm happy just to play despite the heat and everything," Sharapova said. "I've been out of the game for a while, so I'm happy just to be back in a Grand Slam atmosphere."
“You know, the conditions were tough for everyone. I think we got the least today, considering how late we played. But it was still pretty warm out there. Warm enough to have to use some ice vests,” she said. "But, you know, looking at her results in the last, you know, couple of weeks and last year and the matches that I've played against her, I knew that it was going to be a tough match. No matter what I had to do, I wanted to get through it, and I think that's what it was about today.”
Extreme heat can make most people go a little bit crazy, but Casey Dellacqua must be a madder than most. Dellacqua will take to the court on Wednesday in conditions that will be similar to the sweltering heat that crippled players at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
The weather was the talk of Melbourne as players had to deal with 35km/h winds and temperatures that peaked at 42.2 degrees. The heat caused several players to faint and one, Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic, started to hallucinate. Tournament officials defended their decision to allow play to continue, despite heavy criticism on Twitter from tennis legend Martina Navratilova.
Rather than dread the prospect of sweating it out on another day of 40-degree temperatures, Perth native Dellacqua has welcomed the extreme conditions. "The hotter the better for me," Dellacqua said.
Casey Dellacqua has reached the third round at Melbourne Park.
"I just grew up in hot conditions, and obviously being Australian, so it's going to be the same for everyone. I know everyone is talking about the weather and the conditions and stuff, but at the end of the day we're all athletes and everyone is probably physically ready to go after having a big pre-season. So I think the fact that I'm from Perth might help me a little bit."
Grass court specialist Sabine Lisicki, a Wimbledon finalist last year, could not justify her seeded status for the first Grand Slam of the calendar year in Melbourne. The German lost in three sets (6-2, 2-6, 2-6) on Wednesday to Monica Niculescu. "I did everything right for about one-and-a-half sets, but then the heat got to me," Lisicki said after another scorching day with temperatures hitting 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in the shade. "There comes a point when it's just too hot to play professional sports."