Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic seal commanding wins at Australian Open
World No. 1 Williams and second seed Djokovic both register straight-sets wins
A record-equaling nine players have withdrawn or retired from their first round matches
Temperatures in Melbourne have lingered above 40 degrees Celsius
Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic might have hit upon a formula to contend with the searing heat at the Australia Open – beat your opponents as quickly as possible.
A record-equaling nine players retired from their first round matches as temperatures lingered at a stifling 40 degrees Celsius, matching the highest number of withdrawals from a single round of grand slam set at the 2003 U.S. Open and Wimbledon 2013.
Complaining players, vomiting, fainting, melting bottles and burning feet have marred the first few days of competition in Melbourne, but world No. 1 Williams and four-time champion Djokovic were both in a hurry as they registered commanding wins.
Williams, a five-time winner of the year’s opening grand slam, beat 104-ranked Vesna Dolonc 6-1 6-2, while men’s second seed Novak Djokovic defeated Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-0 6-4 6-4.
Pat Rafter’s return from retirement fell short as Australia’s Davis Cup captain and his partner Lleyton Hewitt crashed out of the men’s doubles at the first hurdle.
The Australian duo were beaten 6-4 7-5 by American Eric Butorac and South African Raven Klassen but at least Rafter, who retired in 2001, was pleased to avoid an embarrassing scoreline.
“I got through it and that was the main thing,” Rafter, who won the Australian Open men’s doubles title in 1999, told the Australian Open website.
“It wasn’t embarrassing but I just wasn’t able to build any pressure to help Lleyton out on his return when they were serving.”
Hewitt had coaxed his 41-year-old Davis Cup captain out of retirement for a one off return in Melbourne and he said afterwards: “It was a lot of fun to team up with Pat, especially at the Australian Open which means a lot to us.
“I threw it up to Pat and he thought I was joking. He still goes all right.”
Hewitt, who also lost his first round singles match to Italian Andreas Seppi to dampen home hopes, said he and Rafter would return to the court at the French Open and Wimbledon’s All England championship.
But before Australian tennis fans get their hopes up, Hewitt made it clear he was only joking.