Delight for Sharapova fails to hide confusion on heat rules

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Maria Sharapova battled for more than three hours in roasting conditions to reach the third round of the Australian Open and then called for greater clarity on the tournament’s extreme heat policy.

The third seed was on court for three hours and 28 minutes on her way to a 6-3 4-6 10-8 victory over Italy’s Karin Knapp.

Tournament referee Wayne McKewen makes the call when to suspend play but there is no fixed temperature that brings the rule into effect, with humidity, wind direction and the immediate forecast all taken into account.

Conditions were deemed unplayable yesterday as the thermometer hit 42C yet on Tuesday it was above 40C for five hours and play continued.

Sharapova said: “There is no getting around the fact that the conditions were extremely difficult and have been for the last few days.

“It’s a tough call.

“I think the question I have is that no one really knows what the limit is.

“Not the players or the trainers.”

Sharapova next meets France’s Alize Cornet, who was in tears at the end of her 6-3 4-6 6-4 win over Camila Giorgi.

She said: “I think I was very brave, like every player at this tournament in these conditions.”

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska all had the luxury of playing their matches under a roof.

Azarenka opened the night session on Rod Laver with a battling 6-1 6-4 victory over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who held her own in the second set.

Tenth seed Wozniacki won a topsy-turvy clash with American Christina McHale 6-0 1-6 6-2 while fifth seed Radwanska was a 6-0 7-5 winner over Olga Govortsova.

Last year’s semi-finalist Sloane Stephens recovered from the brink of defeat to win 3-6 6-2 7-5 against big-hitting Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic.

Eighth seed Jelena Jankovic had a much easier time of it, the Serbian winning 6-2 6-0 against Japan’s Ayumi Morita.