Sharapova, Hingis advance to fourth round

Top-seeded Maria Sharapova got another taste of the elements, ignoring the sauna like conditions in Rod Laver Arena to advance in the Australian Open.

updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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Top-seeded Maria Sharapova got another taste of the elements, ignoring the sauna like conditions in Rod Laver Arena to advance to the second week of the Australian Open. While often heavy rain prevented play on outside courts, the roof on Rod Laver Arena was closed on Saturday for Sharapova's 6-3, 6-1 third-round win over 30th-seeded Tathiana Garbin. The air conditioning wasn't working early and the players were already sweating profusely after their warm up and spectators fanned themselves with programmes. It was slightly cooler for three-time Australian champion Martina Hingis, who needed only 62 minutes to beat Japan's Aiko Nakamura 6-2, 6-1. Hingis, in the second year of her comeback from three years on the sidelines, has only conceded nine games in three matches. Sharapova has only lost seven games since her narrow escape against Camille Pin in a steamy first-round match. "I guess I can say I'm still lucky to be in the tournament after my first round," Sharapova said. "It is only going to get tougher for me." Extreme Heat Policy Sharapova, the US Open champion, had to play in searing temperatures in her opening win, saying the heat had made her delusional while she gave up a 5-0 lead in the third set. At the same time, new matches on outside courts were delayed under the tournament's Extreme Heat Policy as temperatures headed above 38 C (100 F). Her second-round win over Anastassia Rodionova was in cool and overcast conditions. Asked if the atmosphere was more cozy on Saturday, Sharapova thought there'd be better ways to describe the Melbourne's notoriously fickle weather. "I wouldn't go cozy. I've felt cozier in my life," she said. "It's a little humid but I like it indoors." Sharapova started slow, getting broken in two of her first three service games. Then she found the range and was ripping winners hitting the lines on three consecutive shots in one point and allowed Garbin only one game the rest of the way. Garbin was putting in the effort, sprinting from sideline to sideline, earning loud applause as she raced from the left baseline to get to a Sharapova drop shot near the net on the right side and flicking a forehand winner down the line. But she had only four other winners to go with 18 unforced errors and was looking increasingly dispirited as the match wore on. Nadal at the courts Men's number two Rafael Nadal was the next match on centre court against Stan Wawrinka. Sixth-seeded Andy Roddick had to be sure his coach Jimmy Connors didn't fly all the way to Melbourne for nothing Friday. Connors was uncertain if he'd join Roddick for the Australian Open after his mother and longtime coach, Gloria, died this month. The eight-time major winner decided to make the long trip _ his first to Melbourne since losing in 1975 for Roddick's 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) third-round win over 2005 champion Marat Safin. "We've been thinking a lot about Jimmy in the last couple of weeks, so for him to be here in the flesh, we're really happy," Roddick said. "For him to go through what he's been going through, to hop a flight and show up this morning and stay up, he's still in the locker room chugging along," he added. Safin needed a medical timeout after skinning his fingers lunging for a passing shot in the third set. After a brief delay for the roof to be closed because of light rain, he refused to play because he thought the court was too wet. Federer moves ahead Roger Federer moved a step closer to a 10th Grand Slam title with a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (5) win over Mikhail Youzhny. The top-ranked Swiss star will be chasing a 33rd consecutive win when he plays 14th-seeded Novak Djokovic, who beat Thailand's Danai Udomchoke 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. On the women's side, Serena Williams, plagued by a bad knee last year and unseeded after winning this event in 2005, rallied after number 5 Nadia Petrova served for the match at 6-1, 5-3. Williams, ranked number 95, showed plenty of grit in a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory that was her first over a top-10 player since she won the last of her seven majors in Australia two years ago. Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo beat Eva Birnerova to set up a match against Lucie Safarova, while number three Svetlana Kuznetsova, number 7 Elena Dementieva, number 10 Nicole Vaidisova and number 16 Shahar Peer also advanced.