Monday 23 April 2018

Sharapova vents anger after battling through

Maria Sharapova hits a return to Karin Knapp
Maria Sharapova hits a return to Karin Knapp

TENNIS Simon Briggs

Maria Sharapova may come across as a frosty beauty queen, but she has the battling instincts of a pit bull terrier. Her white-knuckle win over Karin Knapp was another riposte to the infamous theory that "lookers" are not as likely to scrap.

Sharapova played the longest women's match of this tournament, on the hottest day of a sweltering week. At one stage, she stood just two points from defeat against Knapp, Italy's world No 44.

But she steeled herself -- and cooled herself with more ice than you will find at a fishmonger -- as she inched to a 6-3 4-6 10-8 victory in 3 hours 28 minutes.

When Sharapova returned to the locker room, she discovered that play had been suspended on all outside courts. The Australian Open had finally invoked its "extreme heat rule," in response to temperatures that exceeded 43C.

In theory, this should have meant the closure of the roof on Rod Laver Arena, and a release for Sharapova from the sun. But the small print says that the set in progress has to be completed before it can happen.

Yesterday Sharapova kept all her faculties intact, but only just. She was moving sluggishly between points and reaching at every changeover for not only an ice jacket, but two long tubes of ice -- one for around her neck and the other pressed to her legs.

Already frustrated by the failure to close the roof before the deciding set, she became even more incensed by umpire Juan Zhang's decision to call a time violation against her, after she spent more than the allotted 20 seconds between points.

"On one hand you're trying to get as much rest in between points as you can," she said afterwards, "but then you have an umpire who is giving you a time violation.

"Then you're asking yourself whether that's fair. In these conditions, let it go. I think it should be (extended) for the safety of the players, definitely." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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