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28 Jan 2009 09:37
Serena Williams survived the onset of a once-in-a-century heatwave and endured an out-of-body experience on Wednesday to oust Svetlana Kuznetsova and join a trio of Muscovites in the Australian Open semifinals.
Only the American’s refusal to buckle and the organisers’ decision to close the roof as the mercury soared prevented a Russian sweep of the quarterfinals after Elena Dementieva had earlier endured the brutal conditions to advance.
Dementieva’s compatriots, Vera Zvonareva and Dinara Safina, booked their semifinal berths on Tuesday.
“Me against the Russians now, I guess,” Williams quipped after her 5-7 7-5 6-1 victory.
Seeking a fourth Australian Open crown, the American second seed struggled in the opening set before organisers invoked their Extreme Heat Policy and shut the roof on the Rod Laver Arena court with the temperature topping 43 degrees Celsius.
She picked up in the second set and raced through the third as Kuznetsova found she had punched herself out and could not keep up with the rejuvenated Serena.
“It was really an out-of-body experience,” Williams told reporters. “Like I felt I was watching someone play in a blue dress, and it wasn’t me, because it was so hot out there.
“It was so hot that my rackets lost all tension.
I had to string ‘em way tighter than normal for my ball to stay in the court because they were pretty much hitting the people in the crowd.
“Definitely I was mortified at some of the shots I hit.
“I felt that it cooled down pretty fast once the roof was closed.”
Kuznetsova was angry that her opponent was allowed to slip the hook because the roof was closed.
“It gave her more chances, I guess,” she said.
“I guess it’s two different games. One you play inside; one you play outside.
“Definitely angry… why should I not be?
“Game going my way. Why today they had to close it? I didn’t get it. That was why I was angry.
“I didn’t get the rule at all. Closing the roof in the middle of the match, I don’t get it.”
Melbourne is braced for its hottest week in 100 years as meteorologists predict five consecutive days above 40 for the first time since 1908.
The tournament referee can halt matches if the “heat stress index” reaches a predetermined level. The index is a complex, combined measurement of temperature, heat radiation, wind, and humidity.
Earlier, Dementieva had endured the brutal conditions to beat unseeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 6-2.
“It was very tough to play because of the weather conditions,” Dementieva said.
“I think you can work so hard trying to get ready for the weather condition, but when you have to face 40 or 41, there is no way you can get used to it.
“The best way is to play as quick as possible and just get away from the court. I mean, there is no way to adjust with the heat here.”
Men’s fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Spain’s Fernando Verdasco contest their quarterfinal under the roof later on Wednesday while top seed Rafa Nadal clashes with Tsonga’s fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon in the night match.—Reuters
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