Novak Djokovic waves to the crowd after winning his second round match against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina at the Australian Open tennis championship Wednesday. (Aaron Favila / Associated Press)
Melbourne, Australia — Serena Williams wore a fitted pink blazer into her second-round match at the Australian Open, giving the impression she wasn’t feeling the heat.
After her 6-1, 6-2 win over Vesna Dolonc on Wednesday, the second consecutive scorching day at the season’s first major, Williams said she could remember hotter matches.
She extended her winning stretch to 24 matches dating back to August, and improved to 60-8 at the Australian Open, equaling Margaret Court’s record of 60 match wins at the tournament in the Open era.
Court, who won seven of her 11 Australian titles before the Open era began in 1968, has a show court named in her honor adjacent to Rod Laver Arena.
On day three at Melbourne Park, the center court was — at least according to the two fans holding up a sign — “Serena’s Arena.”
“I just try to hit a bunch of aces and a bunch of winners — that’s all you can do because it’s too hot to get into long rallies,” she said.
The heat topped 40 Celsius (104F) during the 63-minute match, and peaked at just under 42 C (108 F) during Novak Djokovic’s 6-0, 6-4, 6-4 win over Leonardo Mayer. Second-seeded Djokovic, aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win four consecutive Australian Open titles, didn’t face a break point.
Williams fended off the only break point she faced with an ace, one of her 10 in the match. She hit 24 winners, sticking to the strategy for a hot day.
She said didn’t even go outside Tuesday because she heard the conditions “were a little bit extreme,” adding that the prospect of the scorching temperatures even interrupted her sleep.
“I kept waking up in the middle of the night last night just paranoid. I just wanted to stay hydrated,” she said. “The last thing I want to do is to cramp in this weather. It can happen so easy.”
Temperatures topped 42 Celsius (108F) on Tuesday, and there were a total of nine retirements in the first round, equaling a Grand Slam record. The forecast is for the heat wave to continue until Friday.
Li Na opened proceedings on Rod Laver on Wednesday and completed back-to-back wins over the two youngest players in the draw.
The 2011 French Open champion, a two-time finalist at Melbourne Park, raced through the first set against 16-year-old Belinda Bencic in 22 minutes, conceding just 10 points. She had to work harder in the second before winning 6-0, 7-6 (5).
Li, from Wuhan, one of the three “Stove Cities” in central China renowned for hot temperatures, turns 32 next month. In the first round, she dropped just two games as she accounted for 16-year-old Ana Konjuh, the youngest player in the tournament.
“It’s warm, but it’s OK,” Li said.
She’ll next meet No. 26 Lucie Safarova, who beat Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-0.
The players are finding ways to cope, using ice vests and wet towels in the changeovers. In Wednesday’s first match on Margaret Court Arena, the heat rule went into effect allowing No. 15-seeded Sabine Lisicki and Monica Niculescu a 10-minute break after the second set.
Niculescu returned to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 and will next play No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova, who followed up her first-round win over Venus Williams with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over American Irina Falconi.
No. 28 Flavia Pennetta had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Monica Puig to set up a third-round match against Mona Barthel, a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum.
On the men’s side, Djokovic extended his winning streak to 26 matches but had a brief scare while serving at 3-0 in the first set when he turned over on his left ankle, tumbling to the court.
It didn’t warrant medical attention during the next break in play and he took the opening set in just 22 minutes, allowing Mayer to win just eight points.
No. 3 David Ferrer beat Adrian Mannarino of France 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 to progress along with No. 7 Tomas Berdych and No. 9 Richard Gasquet.
Florian Mayer beat No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and Bosnian qualifier Damir Dzumhur advanced when No. 32-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia retired with cramps while leading in the fourth set.