Heat is on as stars struggle

Agence France-Presse . Melbourne | Published: 22:54, Jan 16,2017 | Updated: 09:13, Jan 17,2017


Britain’s Andy Murray yells out while playing Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko in their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne on Monday. — AP photo

World number one Andy Murray was tested and Stan Wawrinka lost his cool as stars struggled on a hot first day at the Australian Open on Monday.
Roger Federer and Angelique Kerber, the defending women’s champion, both dropped sets on a day which threatened a host of upsets at Melbourne Park.
In the event, fourth seed Simona Halep was the only major casualty as soaring afternoon temperatures gave way to a cool evening at Melbourne Park.
Australia’s often hot-headed Nick Kyrgios was uncharacteristically calm as he thumped Gastao Elias 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, despite a nosebleed which halted him mid-match.
But Wawrinka drew gasps as he smashed a volley straight at a static Martin Klizan deep in the fifth set, en route to a difficult 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 win.
As afternoon temperatures topped 32 Celsius (90 Fahrenheit), Murray came through a two hours, 47 minutes test against Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko 7-5, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2.
He fared better than Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic, who were both taken to five sets, while Federer was extended 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 by Austria’s Jurgen Melzer.
Kerber, defending a Grand Slam title for the first time, laboured past Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 in an unconvincing performance.
The German was an early loser at both of her warm-up tournaments and she took time to settle against Tsurenko. But she also started slowly last year, when she had to save a match point against Misaki Doi in the first round.
Halep is rated as one of the fastest players on the circuit but her usual zip was glaringly absent as she went down 6-3, 6-1 to American rising star Shelby Rogers.
Afterwards she said a knee injury had slowed her down as she succumbed in the first round for the second consecutive year.
Venus Williams, the oldest player in the women’s draw at 36, also found herself with a fight on her hands but she came through 7-6 (7/5), 7-5 against 22-year-old Kateryna Kozlova.
Japan’s Nishikori, who says he is primed to win his first major title this year, came through a five-set battle with Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2.

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