Friday 24 November 2017

Tennis: Azarenka scare in New York heat

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus collapses on the court while playing Gisela Dulko of Argentina at Flushing Meadows
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus collapses on the court while playing Gisela Dulko of Argentina at Flushing Meadows

Julian Linden in NEW YORK

One of the hottest summers New York has experienced claimed its first victim at the US Open yesterday when Victoria Azarenka fainted on court and was taken to hospital.

Andy Murray, once again shouldering the burden of British expectations, got quick relief from the roasting heat when he raced through his first round match in under two hours, but his straight-sets win was overshadowed by Azarenka's frightening collapse.

The 10th-seeded Belarussian, wearing a black dress, dropped to the court in the first set of her match -- in which she was 5-1 down -- against Argentina's Gisela Dulko with headache-like symptoms.

The 21-year-old Belarussian received medical treatment on the court before being taken away in a wheelchair as a medical official checked her pulse. She was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

Azarenka appeared to struggle as early as the third game when the trainer was called. She received treatment to her arm, but also complained of blurred vision.

It became increasingly clear that she was in difficulty as she took time out between every subsequent point and was ill at ease on her feet. Then, while serving for the fourth time in the match, she collapsed on the baseline, leading to gasps from the crowd and a rush of medical staff onto the court. It was reported that Azarenka fell in the gym earlier in the day.

This is Azarenka's second retirement from a Grand Slam event. Having taken a set off Serena Williams at last year's Australian Open, she pulled out citing dizziness and illness.

Although the weather was slightly cooler than the previous day, tournament officials invoked their rarely used Extreme Weather Policy half an hour before the start of play after the air temperature reached 31.2 Celsius.

The policy allows all players to be given ice packs at the change of ends and to be sheltered from the sun by umbrellas. Women players are also allowed to request a 10-minute break between the second and third sets.

Murray, drenched in sweat and wearing a baseball cap to protect himself from the blazing sun, escaped the worst of the conditions as he needed just one hour and 51 minutes to win his clash with Lukas Lacko 6-3 6-2 6-2 at Arthur Ashe Stadium .

"I managed to get through in straight sets so I'm pleased, but it was a lot tougher than the score suggests," the fourth-seeded Scotsman said.

Murray will now have to deal with Dustin Brown, of Jamaica. The blue touchpaper is about to be lit.

Brown is at No 123 but there is nothing regular about the way he plays. Court No 8 yesterdaybecame a surrogate state of Jamaica, an excited bunch of West Indians thriving in their dreadlocked star taking Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain apart, 6-4, 7-6, 7-5. They danced, they waved flags, they celebrated winners as they would a Chris Gayle cover drive and Brown's response was to play tennis that fizzed and popped.

Sitting at the side of the court, Judy Murray's meticulous note of a player's position on the court outlines she draws would have been filled with lines that crossed and swerved, for there is nothing predictable about him.

"I don't really play this way to make people happy, but if it does, then even better," Brown said. "This is definitely the way I have always played."

He is an inveterate net rusher, he demands back any ball with which he has just lavished a winner, and he refuses to sit down at changeovers.

Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych joined the growing list of seeds to stumble at the first hurdle when the Czech was outclassed 7-6 6-4 6-4 by France's Michael Llodra, better known as a doubles specialist.

World No 35 Llodra just missed out on being seeded for the main draw, but proved why he was a player many of the seeds wanted to avoid with a 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 6-4 victory.

The 30-year-old left-hander, who had lost in the first round in 22 of his previous 36 Grand Slam singles events, drove seventh seed Berdych to distraction with his serve and volley tactics.

Berdych was not the only seed to fall on day three, with 15th seed Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia beaten in four sets by American qualifier Ryan Harrison (18).

US Open,

Live, Sky Spts 2 / Eurosport 4.0/4.30

Irish Independent

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