MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova recovered from the longest, hottest match of her career to beat Alize Cornet, 6-1, 7-6 (6), Friday and reached the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Her third-round match was played in high humidity, but in temperatures of about 72 degrees, considerably cooler than the scorching 108-degree conditions she endured for three hours, 28 minutes in her second-round win over Karin Knapp two days previously. That preceded the first match suspensions under the tournament’s Extreme Heat Policy in five years.
Again, though, Sharapova struggled to close out. She took 50 minutes between her first and last match points against Knapp, and needed almost 30 minutes to finish off Cornet — she missed a match point with a wayward backhand on the Frenchwoman’s serve, and then got broken twice while trying to serve for the match.
Sharapova had six doubles-faults and 29 of her total 35 unforced errors in the second set after breezing through the first.
“After the last match, I’m just happy to get through this,” Sharapova said. “Definitely need to step it up. I was lucky to get through the other day, now that I’m in the second week, I’m level.”
The four-time major winner needed an ice bath after her second-round win, but joked about needing a warm bath following her victory over Cornet.
“It’s such a quick change,” Sharapova said of the cooler conditions. “I think it’s really welcome from all of us.”
The third-seeded Sharapova was still wearing ice vests and draping ice-filled towels over her shoulders in the changeovers Friday.
No. 25 Cornet appeared to be laboring between points in the second set, spending time retreating to the shade and breathing deeply at certain stages. She had been clearly distressed after her second-round win in the heat, also, sobbing when she described the conditions as like “an oven.”
Sharapova will next play Dominika Cibulkova, who beat No. 16 Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-1, 6-0, in 59 minutes. Suarez Navarro was clearly still fatigued from her three-hour, second-round match in the extreme heat. She hit only two winners against Cibulkova.
“I finished the last match with pain. I tried to recover yesterday, but it was not possible to play good today,” she said after Friday’s defeat. “When you play with these players at this level, you need to be 90 percent perfect or 100 percent perfect. If you are less than this, you cannot play, you cannot be on court.”
Sloane Stephens is having another good Australian Open, advancing to the fourth round with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
Last year, Stephens made it to the fourth round or better at all four majors — joining Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska as the only players to achieve that feat.
And Stephens, seeded 13th this year, beat Williams in last year’s quarterfinals at Melbourne Park, one of only four losses for Williams in 2013.