Maria Sharapova readies to hit a forehand return in a 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 victory over Karin Knapp at Melbourne Park on Thursday. Eugene Hoshiko/The Associated Press
Maria Sharapova toiled in 43-degree Celsius (109 F) temperatures for more than 3 1/2 hours on Rod Laver Arena and could count herself among the unlucky early starters at the oppressively hot Australian Open on Thursday.
After organizers finally decided to suspend matches due to extreme temperatures in a heat wave gripping southeastern Australia, late lighting and rain caused further delays on day four.
Caroline Wozniacki highlighted the unpredictable Melbourne weather, describing the conditions as "pleasant" when she played on Rod Laver Arena immediately after Sharapova. And comparatively, it was. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer also enjoyed the milder temperatures when they played evening matches indoors.
Pospisil pulls out
Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil withdrew from the Australian Open on Thursday due to a lingering back injury.
The 28th seed pulled out during a doubles match a day before his scheduled third-round singles match against Stanisials Wawrinka of Switzerland.
Pospisil, 23, and Austrian partner Julien Knowle were losing 1-2 to an Australian duo in the first round of their match when he
Pospisil said he was told by doctors that he risked compromising his season if he continued in the tournament.
He will return to Vancouver on Friday to start rehab in hopes of playing in the Davis Cup in Tokyo in two weeks.
Pospisil called it an unfortunate and disappointing injury.
The roof at Rod Laver Arena re-opened when weather conditions improved, and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray won the last 23 consecutive points in the featured night match to come back from 5-1 down in the third set and beat French qualifier Vincent Millot 6-2, 6-2, 7-5.
Organizers invoked their 'Extreme Heat Policy' and the roofs on the two main arenas were closed in the afternoon. Matches on outside courts, meanwhile, were suspended for more than four hours until temperatures dropped.
Problems with the weather didn't end there -- thunderstorms, lightning and rain showers hit during the early evening, forcing another suspension of play for matches on the outer courts.
Defending champion Victoria Azarenka was spared, playing indoors when she beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1, 6-4.
Her main rival on the bottom half of the draw had to endure the harshest conditions of the day.
The temperature was 39 C when Sharapova's match against No. 44-ranked Karin Knapp started just after 11 a.m. local time. It increased to almost 43 C by the time she finished off a 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 win on her fourth match point, 50 minutes after her first. It was the longest women's match so far in the tournament.
"I wanted this match," Sharapova said. "I didn't play my best tennis; I didn't do many things well ... [but] I got through it, and sometimes that's what's important."
At the height of the heat, Sharapova, dripping in sweat, wasted three match points on serve in the 10th game of the third set and then had to save break points and serve to stay in the match.
She'll next meet No. 25 Alize Cornet of France, who sobbed on court after beating Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in 2 1/2 hours.
"I went really further than my limits. It was really hot, that's why I'm so emotional," Cornet said of the conditions.
Wozniacki had a 6-0, 1-6, 6-2 win over American Christina McHale, No. 8 Jelena Jankovic defeated Ayumi Morita 6-2, 6-0 and No. 13 Sloane Stephens, who beat Serena Williams here last year in the quarter-finals, defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Federer played on the second show court at Melbourne Park for the first time in a decade, and raced to a 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 ( 4) win over Blaz Kavcic under the roof at Hisense Arena.
Federer said he didn't mind the switch. He'd played 63 consecutive matches on Rod Laver since 2004.
"It was nice ... it's not really different to Rod Laver Arena really," Federer said. "Dimensions feel the same, the crowds were really nice, great atmosphere. I was happy playing there."
He was playing at the same time as Nadal for the first time in years at Melbourne Park. Nadal had no trouble in a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Australian wild-card entry Thanasi Kokkinakis under the roof on Rod Laver Arena.
"Very happy to see the roof out there today," Nadal said.
No. 16 Kei Nishikori had a 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (3) win over Dusan Lajovic. He will next play American Donald Young, who beat No. 24 Andreas Seppi 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in one of the matches suspended for nearly four hours due to the heat.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga started his match under the blazing sun and finished it with a roof over the court in beating Thomaz Bellucci 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-4 at Hisense Arena.
No. 11 Milos Raonic beat Victor Hanescu 7-6 (9), 6-4, 6-4, No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov defeated Lu Yen-hsun 6-3, 6-3, 7-3 (11) and No. 25 Gael Monfils beat American Jack Sock 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-2.
Organizers announced that Canadian Vasek Pospisil withdrew with a back injury from his scheduled third-round match Friday against No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka.