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Williams refuses to wilt as Li finds the going tough

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Serena Williams of the U.S. serves to Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia during their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne. Picture: AP Photo/Aaron Favila.

Serena Williams of the U.S. serves to Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia during their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne. Picture: AP Photo/Aaron Favila.

Serena Williams of the U.S. serves to Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia during their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne. Picture: AP Photo/Aaron Favila.

WORLD No 1 Serena Williams made light of scorching temperatures on the fourth and final day of the Melbourne Park heatwave to blast her way into the last 16 of the Australian Open.

Li Na's progress was less imperious and the Chinese fourth seed escaped defeat by a matter of centimetres in her third round match, while Spain's David Ferrer continued to carve his way through the men's draw largely unnoticed.

Novak Djokovic later attempts to clear the third hurdle in his path to a fourth straight Australian Open title when he takes on Denis Istomin in the final match on Rod Laver Arena.

A fourth day of temperatures in excess of 42 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) meant the demand for ice, liquid and sunscreen remained high at Melbourne Park, but there was no repeat of Thursday's suspension of play.

Li's compatriot Zheng Jie seemed to suffer most obviously during her 6-2, 6-4 loss to local Casey Dellacqua on Rod Laver Arena before a cooling breeze eased conditions.

Temperatures are forecast to drop considerably tomorrow, a huge relief to players and organisers alike after four days of rows over what constitutes dangerous conditions.

"I definitely look forward to playing in the cooler temperatures," said Williams, whose 6-3, 6-3 win over Daniela Hantuchova was a record 61st at the Australian Open.

Li was expected to deal easily enough with Lucie Safarova on Hisense Arena.

The Czech, however, raced through the first set 6-1 and then forced a match point in the second, which she failed to convert by the smallest of margins when her backhand down the line was called out, a decision confirmed by Hawk-Eye.

 

Rallied

Li rallied to win the subsequent tiebreak and then seal 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 victory.

Ninth seed Angelique Kerber, Li's potential quarter-final opponent, had no such problems in her routine 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Alison Riske.

Super-fit Ferrer's attritional style was made for hot conditions and he survived a second set wobble to wear down Frenchman Jeremy Chardy to reach the fourth round at a 15th consecutive grand slam with a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory.

Anderson came from two sets down for the second time in four days to reach the last 16, outlasting Edouard Roger-Vasselin 3-6 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 in just under four hours.

Berdych, by contrast, eased into the fourth round without having dropped a set all week courtesy of a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Bosnian qualifier Damir Dzumhur.

Even without the accordion that serenaded his victory over Ivan Dodig on Wednesday, Dzumhur once again attracted lively support from his compatriots, but Berdych smashed 13 aces and 32 winners to silence them.


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